TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) _ Tom Runnells is headed back to familiar turf now that Sparky Anderson is back in charge of the Detroit Tigers.

Anderson was suspended Feb. 17 when he refused to deal with replacement players. Runnells was manager of the International League's Mud Hens, the Tigers' top minor-league team, when he stepped in as interim manager for Detroit.

The Tigers announced Monday that Anderson will again manage the team, reporting today to Lakeland, Fla., as major-leaguers return for their first workouts. The players had been on strike since August.

Runnells, 39, was hired by the Triple-A Mud Hens at the end of last season, but because of the major-league strike has not yet managed the team.

``I'm really looking forward to an exciting year,'' Runnells said Monday. ``We're hoping to acquire some free agents to make the ballclub competitive.''

Runnells took over for Larry Parrish, who decided at the end of last season not to return. The team finished 63-79 for fifth place in the league's Western Division last year.

Runnells managed the Tigers' Double-A Trenton Thunder last season. He was the manager of the Montreal Expos in 1991 and 1992.

Tigers general manager Joe Klein said the Mud Hens were getting ``a major-league manager.

``Difficult situations often allow people to step up to the front, and what Tommy, along with the staff, did in spring training was above and beyond,'' Klein said.

Mud Hens general manager Gene Cook called Runnells a ``proven field leader.''

``I believe our fans will be thrilled with this man's enthusiasm,'' Cook said.