DETROIT – Bob Stanley describes Don Zimmer as one of the best managers he ever played for and word of his death at age 83 left the Toronto Blue Jays bullpen coach in a sombre mood Thursday.
The two spent four seasons together from 1977 through 1980, and the time made a lasting impression.
“He’s the one that gave me my shot,” Stanley said. “It was the first year I was invited to big-league camp out of double-A and I’ll never forget the day he told me I made the team. I gave up six runs in one inning but they didn’t get a ball out of the infield. When I came into the dugout, I was sitting there and he came up to me, he goes, ‘Kid, do you think you did bad?’ I go, ‘Well, I gave up six runs.’ He goes, ‘Well, you didn’t give up a ball out of the infield. You just made this club.’
“I go, ‘Wow!’ Then he goes, ‘But don’t do that during the season.’ It was pretty awesome. We had a great relationship.”
Zimmer was among baseball's most endearing figures over his six decades as a player, coach, manager and adviser, a role he filled with the Tampa Bay Rays until his death Wednesday.
"He was a character but you didn't want to get him ticked off," Stanley said. "We had our battles arguing, but he never held a grudge. We'd have an argument, and I'd go, 'You done?' And he'd go 'Yeah.' I'd say, 'See you tomorrow,' and he say, 'Nah, we're going to go to the racetrack' or something like that.
"He was a joker. He took me out of a game in Chicago, and he ran to the mound after I'd really pitched well. I go, 'Damn, Zim, what are you running to the mound for?' He says, 'Ugh, I tripped on the top step and if I would have tried to stop I would have fell on my face.' I loved him."
EDWIN SITS: Edwin Encarnacion sat out Thursday's game with back tightness and is day-to-day.
The Blue Jays slugger exited Wednesday's 8-2 win in the ninth inning when his back seized up on him. He wanted to try to DH on Thursday, but while he did feel better, he ended up sitting.
"Just smart to give him a day," manager John Gibbons said.
INJURY UPDATES: Sergio Santos (forerarm) and Colby Rasmus (hamstring) are both making progress in their recoveries from injury.
Santos threw a 25-pitch bullpen Thursday morning, his first since hitting the DL, and the plan for him is to throw another Sunday and assess then if he's good to go out on rehab.
"It was great," he said of the bullpen. "Threw sliders, everything felt good."
Rasmus, meanwhile, took batting practice in Florida and John Gibbons said he could see some action either in extended spring training or on rehab with single-A Dunedin early next week.