Fresh off suspension, Hinch takes over as Tigers manager

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FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2019, file photo, Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch (14) reaches for a ball before Game 3 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees in New York. The Detroit Tigers have hired AJ Hinch to be their new manager, 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. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

DETROIT – As he waited out his suspension this year, AJ Hinch knew he wanted to return to baseball. The question was whether anyone in the sport would be ready to welcome him.

His answer came pretty quickly.

“About 30 minutes after the World Series' last out, my phone rang,” Hinch said.

It was Detroit general manager Al Avila, telling Hinch to get on a plane. The Tigers quickly hired Hinch as their new manager, 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.

It may take a while for Hinch to overcome the stigma of what happened in Houston, but he and his new bosses were ready to address the topic Friday.

“I understand the question and I understand how wrong it was, and I'm sorry for that," Hinch said. "I've said that before, I'll say it again, I'll continue to say it. I'll never forget the feeling that I've had throughout the past year as I've navigated this with my family, but you quickly get to the exciting time of getting back and leading a group of men again, and establishing what Tigers baseball's going to be all about.

“I'm sorry that today, that has to be a topic, and I understand why.”

The 46-year-old Hinch replaces Ron Gardenhire, who retired late this season. He takes over a team that has been rebuilding for the past few years.