Monday, May 21, 2018
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Mud Hens

Get to know: Lee Gardner, Mud Hens relief pitcher

  • This season: Named to the International League All-Star team thanks to his 16 saves, second best in the league. Has a 2-3 record and 3.00 ERA in 31 relief appearances for the Mud Hens. Has allowed just 22 hits and nine walks while fanning 28 in 33 innings of work. Opponents are batting just .200 against him.

  • Career: This is his first season with the Detroit organization after spending most of his career with Tampa Bay. Pitched in 12 games for the Devil Rays in 2002 and five last season. Has a 1-1 record and 4.43 ERA in the big leagues. Spent five seasons with Triple-A Durham, posting a 15-13 record and 70 saves with the Bulls. Those 70 saves make him the franchise s career leader in that category. Had 30 saves for Durham in 2003, another franchise record, and collected 25 saves in 2002. Spent 2004 with San Francisco s Triple-A team in Fresno, going 7-4 with a save and a 4.46 ERA. Entered this year with a 27-22 record in the minors with exactly 100 saves in eight pro seasons. Was not drafted out of college after playing four seasons at Central Michigan. Won 20 games for the Chippewas and struck out 210 batters, both among the school s all-time leaders. Grew up in Hartland, Mich., which is 80 miles north of Toledo and roughly 50 miles from Comerica Park.


    1. What was your favorite team growing up? Growing up my favorite team was the Detroit Tigers. I joked around with Ernie Harwell this spring that he put me to sleep many a night. The Olde English D is special to me. It s great to be with the organization, especially when they re doing the things they re doing now.

    2. What is it like playing so close to your home? I joke around with my buddies that I m in the Promised Land this year. I m living at home, which is about 60 miles north of here in Milford, Mich., and I grew up in Hartland, Mich. It s been great to come to the organization this year. When I was with the Durham Bulls I d come back here and the family would come down to see me. At [Skeldon Stadium] there would be 170 people in the stands, and 150 of those people were my family.

    3. Who was your favorite Tiger growing up? Growing up I was always Enos Cabell at first. That s not somebody you hear a lot of people say they are going to be, is it?

    4. You went against the odds by making it to the major leagues despite going undrafted. How would you describe your career? I battled coming up, and Tampa Bay gave me a chance. The first time I went up there, I didn t do what I needed to do no excuses. When I got called up last year I thought I did a good job. I know I m a guy who s good enough to get there, but I have to do unbelievable stuff to stay. Right now I m just looking for a chance; I m not going to overwhelm you with my stuff, but I ll take the ball and keep guys off balance.

    5. What s it like to be a closer it s different than being a reliever who comes in earlier in the game, isn t it? I m a big fan of [the slogan] KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid. I try to consider it as being no different that the innings previous, but the last inning of the game is different. Most times the other team is playing for just one or two runs; whether or not they ve done it in the eight innings before, they re going to come at you with everything. There are more situations to consider. When it s over you re either carrying the fish bucket or slapping hands.

    6. What s the worst part about blowing a save? If I go out there and battle and I lose, that s one thing. The problem is when you go into the clubhouse after you ve lost the game. You hate letting your teammates down.

    7. Most closers now have special music when they enter a game. What would you like to hear? The way things have been going when I ve pitched at home this year, I m not going to change a thing. I don t even hear what they re playing, but I m doing the job so I hope they don t change a thing.

    8. What was your most embarrassing sports moment? I m a guy who s the clown of the clubhouse. I don t get embarrassed often in the clubhouse, and I try to keep a stone face when I do. I ve had a lot of stuff done [to me], but I feel good at how I got back at people. I have no problem with people trying to do stuff to me; my thought is that I usually get the guy back. Some times I ll get an innocent bystander, and then it s their job to get the guy back for me. I ll get somebody.

    9. Something nobody knows about you: I don t like being in situations with a lot of people around. I know that s crazy considering what I do, but I m not a big fan of going to events where there are a lot of people. I like to have just a few people around me. I like to sail but I don t like the water, I guess.

    John Wagner

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