LAKELAND, FLA. — Everyone remembers Tigers manager Brad Ausmus as a catcher, but he did play shortstop in a game.
"Turned a double play, too, with Jose Vizcaino," Ausmus recalled Saturday morning. "It was a blowout game. I think it was the last inning or two, and (manager Phil) Garner, I believe, put me there. And I think he kind of did it as a favor, because on days that I didn’t catch, during batting practice I would always take ground balls at shortstop."
Ausmus couldn’t recall who was at the plate for the double play.
"You know what, it was someone not all that fast, I do remember that," Ausmus said.
Ausmus said for his entire 18-year career, on days he wasn’t catching, he took ground balls at shortstop.
"I don’t think it hurt me from a physical standpoint in the sense that you’re moving your feet and you have to coordinate some different muscle groups other than things you use when you’re catching," Ausmus said. "But the truth is I enjoyed it, and I’d hang out with whoever the shortstop was on that team and we’d take ground balls together. I just enjoyed it more than anything. It kind of breaks up the monotony of the season."
For now, Ausmus will leave the shortstop duties to Jose Iglesias.
"I feel good about him and our backup, Omar Vizquel," Ausmus said, joking about his first base/infield coach, who won 11 Gold Gloves as a shortstop.
Ausmus said it was either president/general manager Dave Dombrowski or assistant general manager Al Avila who brought up bringing Vizquel on board.
"It was a name that hadn’t crossed my mind, I think because in my mind I wasn’t sure if he was still playing," Ausmus said. "And then it sounded like a good idea, and then actually Miggy (Cabrera) gave me a call about him, Victor (Martinez) gave me a call about him. Obviously there’s a Venezuelan connection there. There’s a number of Venezuelans in this room, or will be.
"The guy’s played 2,700 (actually 2,968) games at shortstop. There’s as lot of things he brings to the table, not just as a guy who knows infield defense but as a baserunner, as a bunter.
"And the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. It took me a couple days to get a hold of him because he was in Venezuela at the time. We talked over the phone. I think he’s going to be great."