Manager Ron Gardenhire had grown accustomed to seeing his good friend and colleague, Jim Leyland, across the dugout when his Twins played the Tigers over the last nine years.
But Leyland retired after last season, and was replaced by Brad Ausmus, who is now tasked with trying to lead the Tigers to their fourth straight American League Central crown.
So, Gardenhire admitted playing against the division-rival Tigers is different this year, with both teams set to resume their three-game series on Saturday at Target Field. The Tigers posted a 10-6 victory behind a seven-run third inning in Friday night's opener.
"It's different," Gardenhire said. "[Leyland] was a lot of fun. A very special person to talk to. Gonna miss just listening to him tell some good stories before the game. We've had a lot of great conversations. I've learned a lot of baseball off of him."
Ausmus was in unfamiliar territory on Friday, as it was the first time he'd ever been to Target Field. He retired from playing in 2010, which was the first year of the ballpark's existence.
"It's a beautiful park," Ausmus said. "We took early batting practice and it's a beautiful place to stand in the outfield and shag balls. Especially when it's sunny."
Phil Hughes gets the start for the Twins opposite fellow righty Anibal Sanchez on Saturday, and will look to fare better than Kevin Correia, who was hit hard in the series opener.
Hughes is coming off his first victory of the year on Sunday, when he gave up three runs on nine hits over six innings against the Royals. He'll look to build off that start and focus on first-pitch strikes, as he struggled in his first three outings of the season.
"That's what I try to do, just attack the hitter and get ahead," Hughes said. "Sometimes, I catch a little too much of the plate, but I like to avoid walks and avoid falling behind. Hopefully, I can get on a run and pick up a few more [wins]."
Tigers: Smyly to skip turn in rotation
Ausmus said on Friday that the team would skip left-hander Drew Smyly's next turn in the rotation, pointing to a quirk in the schedule that gives the Tigers off-days on either side of a two-game series in Chicago next week.
"If there'd only been one off-day it probably wouldn't change, but when you have two within one turn through the rotation, you end up bumping everyone two days," Ausmus said.
Twins: Arcia to begin rehab assignment
Outfielder Oswaldo Arcia took batting practice on the field before Friday's game against the Tigers without any issues, and will begin a rehab assignment on Saturday with Triple-A Rochester. Arcia, who is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 5 with a right wrist strain, had been taking batting practice in the cages before progressing to on-field work on Friday.
"Everything feels great so he's ready to go," assistant general manager Rob Antony said. "He did everything today without any issues. We'll ease him into the process with some at-bats at DH at first, and alternate from there."
• The Tigers went 11-8 against the Twins in 2013, including a 5-4 record at Target Field. They've won 21 of their last 28 at home.
• Twins general manager Terry Ryan, who had surgery to remove a cancerous mass from his neck on Feb. 11, finished his six weeks of radiation treatment on Wednesday. Ryan, 60, was originally diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in early February.
• Twins outfielder Josh Willingham, who is on the 15-day DL retroactive to April 7 with a small fracture in his left wrist, has yet to start taking batting practice, as he still feels tenderness in his wrist. But Willingham could start swinging by early next week.
• The Tigers are in the middle of a stretch of 12 straight games against American League Central opponents, and have a 3-2 record during that stretch.