Fresh off suspension, former Astros manager AJ Hinch takes over as Tigers manager

Manager A.J. Hinch
Manager A.J. Hinch (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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.

“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," Hinch said in a statement. "Everything that has transpired over the past year, personally and professionally, has put so much in perspective for me, and reinforced how important it is to do things with integrity and honesty.”

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.