DETROIT -- Like the rest of the Tigers coaches, Lloyd McClendon is in limbo, under contract with the Tigers until the end of the month but unsure what will happen beyond that. There's a little more to it than that for him, though.
McClendon could get the keys to the World Series contender that his mentor, Jim Leyland, has helped build in Detroit. Or the longtime Tigers hitting coach could be looking for a job somewhere.
"Hey, this is the nature of this game," he said Tuesday. "It's not pleasant this time of year."
If the Tigers' managerial search turns his way, it could be one of the sweetest moments of his baseball career.
Leyland has said more than once over the years that he'd like to see McClendon get another chance to manage somewhere, and Leyland said it again on a local radio station Monday to put in a good word for McClendon and bench coach Gene Lamont. When contacted Monday, Lamont made it clear he'd like to manage again, but sounded less than confident he'd get a chance in this case.
If and when the Tigers look in-house at candidates to fill the job, the 54-year-old McClendon is expected to be the strongest candidate, combining previous managerial experience, hands-on work with the current roster and a relatively young age (younger than Lamont or third-base coach Tom Brookens).
There will be questions about the inconsistency of Detroit's hitters under McClendon, as there should, but there will also be examples of hitters he has helped progress -- from the consistent approach Miguel Cabrera developed the past few years to the better seasons of Austin Jackson and Alex Avila.
McClendon has not heard anything from the Tigers about the managerial opening, but he'd obviously be interested.
"Oh, I think you'd be a fool not to be," he said.
McClendon was one of three coaches -- Lamont and Rafael Belliard are the others -- to work with Leyland for all of his eight seasons in Detroit. McClendon came here coming off a 4 1/2-year stint managing in Pittsburgh that ended late in the 2005 season, and Leyland brought him back looking to keep him involved in the game -- first as the bullpen coach in 2006, then as hitting coach for the next seven seasons.
McClendon already had learned a lot playing for Leyland for five seasons, then coaching under Lamont for four more. Coaching for Leyland has strengthened that base, which McClendon hopes to turn into a second chance at managing.
At the same time, he also made it clear he wouldn't spend a managerial stint trying to be a Leyland clone.
"It's been a pleasure," McClendon said. "Obviously when you have an opportunity to work with one of the best in the game, you'd be a fool not to learn something. That has certainly been very beneficial to me. My aspirations are hopefully to manage again, but at the same time you have to be your own man."
Much of what he has learned sounds like what Leyland has preached, though it's coming from a different voice.
"I think I already had it," McClendon said, "but it certainly confirmed my convictions as far as how you go about your business, preparation, knowing your opponents and using that to your advantage, knowing your players, knowing their capabilities -- what they're capable of doing and what they're not capable of doing, and above all your leadership skills."
The biggest thing, he said, is to be yourself. Another point sounded familiar: "Be smart enough to stay out of the players' way."
Like the rest of the coaches, McClendon said he had his suspicions as the season went on that Leyland could retire at the end of the year. Interestingly, though, McClendon said he was hoping an energized Leyland might change his mind once the Tigers returned to the playoffs.
"Obviously there were times during the season where I thought he had enough," McClendon said, "but I thought he was energized for the playoffs. I was always kind of hoping he'd come back."