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Detroit Tigers’ new manager AJ Hinch grateful to be back for spring training

By NOAH TRISTER

AP Baseball Writer

DETROIT — This year, the start of spring training was meaningful in a different way for AJ Hinch.

After winning a World Series and two pennants as Houston’s manager, Hinch spent last season serving a suspension in the aftermath of the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. Now he has resurfaced with Detroit, and although it would be a surprise if the Tigers make the postseason, Hinch just appreciates the opportunity to be back in a big league dugout.

“I hated being out of the game last year,” said Hinch, who was hired as Detroit’s manager in October. “I understand why, and I’m not going to take it for granted that I get to put on a major league uniform again and lead a group of guys throughout the season.”

The Tigers had their first workout for pitchers and catchers Wednesday in Lakeland, Florida.

“It rained before and after our workout, but we got in the full day one,” Hinch said. “Pretty fun day.”

Hinch and the Astros won the World Series in 2017, but 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. Houston fired Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, and Major League Baseball suspended them for last season.

Now Hinch has to begin rebuilding his reputation to some extent — and fittingly, he’s with a Detroit franchise that is also trying to become relevant again after four straight seasons around the bottom of the AL Central.

“This matters to me. This position matters to me, this organization that’s given me another opportunity — it matters to me. And I’m going to take the time and the opportunity to let everybody know it,” Hinch said before Wednesday’s workout.

His message is resonating with left-hander Matthew Boyd.

“I’m so excited to be in the trenches with him and be playing for him this year,” Boyd said. “It’s not easy — everything that happened. I’m excited for what’s to come. You could hear it in his voice how excited he is and how much he believes in this group and believes in what’s to come.”