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Notes: Anderson's interest sparks

Notes: Anderson's interest sparks

DETROIT -- Sparky Anderson hasn't been Alan Trammell's manager for close to a decade now, but it's hard to tell.

"There he is, the meanest man that ever walked," Anderson joked about his former shortstop.

"Get that whip out," Trammell joked in return.

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Before the season started, Anderson told Trammell not to call him until a couple of weeks into the season. Instead, 2 1/2 weeks into it, Anderson beat him to it by showing up at his office. The longtime Tigers skipper and Hall of Fame member was in town for a function across the street at Ford Field, and he made a rare visit to Comerica Park on Thursday morning.

Trammell admits it's a slightly different relationship as a player and his manager, now in Trammell's third year as a manager himself. Yet it remains something special.

"With each year, it's a little bit more as a manager," Trammell said. "But still, the respect, that will never change. I still look at him as my manager, to be honest with you. But since I've sat in this chair now for a few years, I have a little more understanding."

He also has a little closer attention from his former skipper. For the first time since Trammell took over as manager, Anderson said, he has a competitive team, one Anderson started following closer last year. Then, his wife noticed in his phone conversations with Trammell that Sparky was including himself with the team.

"When I always talk to Tram, I know my wife will say, 'You're using "we" a lot,'", Anderson said. "When Tram and I know all the coaches, I just feel like it is. That's how much I watch them every morning. I really care. That's the first time in my 10th year out, and last year and this year are the first two years that I really, really watched and cared."

In the process, he's also watching Trammell mature as a manager.

"You know what? I'll bet 15 years from now, Mike Scioscia and Tram, you're going to be talking about them like Tony La Russa right now. I believe that, because both of those people, No. 1, they are good people. That has to be your base. You can talk all you want about how smart you are, but you'd better have a base that you're a good person down deep.

"Now, you might circle the sportswriters with a lot of baloney, but it has to be good baloney. It can't be baloney where you're trying to hurt people. It has to be fun baloney."

Anderson thinks so much of Trammell that he can't think of a fault. He remembers nicknaming him Huckleberry Finn in their second year together. But in retrospect, what he values most in a manager is the ability to listen.

"I think being out and looking back at everything," he said, "I would say if there's one thing that a manager should be, he should be one that the players know they can walk in the door and talk to him about anything they want. And if they say it's off the record, it has to remain off the record. And that's to the owner, the general manager, anybody. And I always did that."

One sight to keep in mind if you're visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame: An autographed baseball Anderson received from Pope John Paul II back when he was still a manager. It was a present for his 60th birthday from an archbishop who visited the Vatican, and it has even greater significance in the wake of the Pope's passing.

Bullpen struggles: Detroit's recent relief woes, including Thursday's loss, aren't going to change Trammell's bullpen usage. The main reason, he said, is that it's so early in the season.

"It's so early," Trammell said of the season, "that I want to have some trust in them and I want to put them in those situations, because that's what they're there for. That's the way it is. I'm trying to test them. I want to have faith in them. I want them to know that I have trust and faith in them, that I can count on them to do the job.

"You go to a certain point, it's still so early that we're going to have to go and use these guys. My gosh, we've got to get those guys to do their job. That's what we have them for."

When Danys Baez saved Tampa Bay's 3-2 victory over Texas Thursday night, the Tigers became the last American League team without a save. The only National League that remains saveless is the Florida Marlins. That said, Detroit's bullpen has had plenty of work. Its 49 1/3 innings rank among the top third of AL teams, as does its .238 batting average allowed.

Other stats show mixed results. The nine home runs allowed by Tigers relievers lead the AL, as do five hit batsmen.

Martinez could have rehab stint soon: Ramon Martinez continues to take swings off a batting tee while he regains strength in his sprained left thumb. Trammell still doesn't expect to activate him when he's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Sunday. Instead, a brief Minor League rehab stint sounds more likely.

"I would probably like to see him play a few games to test it, just to make sure," Trammell said.

Coming up: Don't put away those overcoats just yet. The Tigers open a three-game weekend series against Minnesota Friday night, with a 7:05 p.m. ET start. Though the first-pitch temperature is expected to be around 50 degrees, the weather is expected to turn worse Saturday and Sunday.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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