Fresh off suspension, Hinch takes over as Tigers manager

Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
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DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers hired AJ Hinch to be their new manager Friday, giving him a chance to return to a major league dugout after he was fired by Houston in the wake of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal.

The Tigers said they agreed to terms with Hinch on a multiyear deal.

Hinch replaces Ron Gardenhire, who retired late this season, and he takes over a rebuilding team that is hoping to start climbing the standings behind a handful of highly touted pitching prospects.

For the 46-year-old Hinch, this is an opportunity to revive his managerial career. He guided Houston to the 2017 World Series title, but that championship — and a lot of what Hinch accomplished there — is now viewed in a different light after an investigation found the Astros used a video feed from a center field camera to decode the opposing catcher’s signs, and players banged on a trash can to signal to hitters what was coming.

In January, Major League Baseball suspended Hinch and Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow for this season, then the Astros immediately fired both.

Detroit went 23-35 in this shortened season, finishing last in the AL Central. That’s been a familiar spot for Detroit in recent years — the Tigers lost 114 games in 2019 — but the team has been able to pick high in the draft during this stretch. Casey Mize, the top overall pick in 2018, reached the majors this year, and Detroit used this year’s No. 1 selection on infielder Spencer Torkelson.

Left-hander Tarik Skubal made his big league debut this year along with Mize. While these youngsters have yet to prove they can make the Tigers contenders again, Detroit will hope Hinch can replicate what he did in Houston.

Hinch, a big league catcher who played for the Tigers in 2003, managed Arizona from May 2009 until July 2010. When he took over the Astros before the 2015 season, they had not finished above .500 since 2008, but Houston had a winning record in all five years under Hinch, including that 2017 World Series title and the 2019 American League pennant.