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Tigers name A.J. Hinch as new manager

A.J. Hinch GettyImages-1183646126.jpg
A.J. Hinch,{ } then with the Houston Astros, attends batting practice prior to Game Four of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on Oct. 26, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (WWMT/Getty Images, Will Newton)

The Detroit Tigers hired A.J. Hinch to be the team's 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.

“I’d like to thank Chris Ilitch and Al Avila for giving me a chance and the opportunity to get back in the dugout to lead this historic ballclub,” Hinch said in a written announcement released Friday by the Tigers. “The last year was the most difficult of my life. It gave me time to reflect, which was such a big part of this process. Everything that has transpired over the past year, personally and professionally, has put so much in perspective for me, and re-enforced how important it is to do things with integrity and honesty.”

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

Hinch replaces Ron Gardenhire, who retired late this season. Hinch 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.

Hinch, 46, is a native of Midwest City, Oklahoma, and was a collegiate standout at Stanford University. Established as one of the best catchers in the country, Hinch was a three-time All-American and All-Pac10 team selection, and two-time Pac10 Player of the Year. He led the Cardinal to the College World Series in 1996 and finished the season as a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award. During his time in Palo Alto, Hinch earned his Bachelor of Science degree in psychology in 1996 and was a member of the 1996 bronze medal-winning U.S. Olympic Baseball Team. He was drafted three times as an amateur, eventually signing with Oakland after being selected in the third round of the 1996 MLB Draft.

News Channel 3 staff contributed to this report.