Detroit Tigers hire Brad Ausmus as manager

When Brad Ausmus was a player – which wasn’t that long ago – the

mental aspect of the game always came pretty easily.

”I always enjoyed the cerebral part,” Ausmus said. ”It was

much more difficult to hit – that was the part of the game I didn’t

really enjoy.”

Perhaps it was inevitable that Ausmus would become a manager,

and he’ll have that chance now. The Detroit Tigers hired the

44-year-old former catcher to replace Jim Leyland at the helm of

the three-time defending AL Central champions. Ausmus has little

managerial experience, and the Tigers will entrust him with a

talented roster that is expected to keep right on winning.

”I’m well aware that you don’t generally get dropped into a

situation like I will be this coming season,” Ausmus said. ”I

understand I’m very fortunate. That being said, I’m not taking

anything for granted. No details will be glossed over. I’m not

assuming anything going into the job.”

Ausmus, who worked in the San Diego Padres’ front office as a

special assistant to the general manager, emerged as Detroit’s pick

less than two weeks after Leyland stepped down. He takes over a

team that has reached the AL championship series three straight

years and should be well positioned for another big season in

2014.

The Tigers lost to Boston this year in the ALCS.

”We’re not going to re-invent the wheel here. This is a pretty

darn good team,” Ausmus said. ”I think I would be foolish to come

here and try to make sweeping changes.”

Ausmus managed Israel’s team for the World Baseball Classic, but

he’s inexperienced as a manager compared to some other potential

candidates. Ausmus played in the majors from 1993-2010.

The Tigers also interviewed Padres bench coach Rick Renteria and

Los Angeles Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach – as well as

Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon. Detroit general manager Dave

Dombrowski said he’d planned to interview former Cincinnati Reds

star Barry Larkin, but Larkin decided not to interview because he

wasn’t in a position to make the time commitment necessary for the

job.

If continuity was Detroit’s main concern, McClendon may have

been the choice, but the Tigers acted a bit more boldly in hiring

the Dartmouth-educated Ausmus, whose name also recently surfaced in

connection with the Chicago Cubs’ job.

”When we interviewed, we were – not just me – taken back at how

impressive he was,” Dombrowski said. ”It really became quite

clear for us, that he would do an outstanding job for us. It was

probably not where I started, but it’s where we ended, and we feel

very good about that.”

There will be one important holdover on Detroit’s coaching

staff. Leyland’s bench coach, Gene Lamont, will remain in that

role. Ausmus agreed to a three-year deal with a club option for

2017. Lamont agreed to a two-year deal.

Ausmus is 24 years younger than the man he’s replacing, and he

inherits a roster with a high payroll and several big names,

including Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. He’ll have a chance

to win right away, and he’ll have to deal with high

expectations.

”Anybody you hire has some risk attached to it,” Dombrowski

said. ”Even a veteran manager that you bring in with a new club,

where they are in their life, there’s risk attached to that.”

The contrasts with the 68-year-old Leyland are obvious, and

Ausmus will have to prove he can guide this star-studded team

through the inevitable rough patches – but it wasn’t long ago that

Ausmus was on the other side of that player-manager relationship.

He played in 1,971 games with four different teams. He played for

the Tigers for part of the 1996 season, and again from

1999-2000.

”I’ve got to be me,” Ausmus said. ”Jim Leyland – great, Hall

of Fame manager. I’m not going to be Jim Leyland. I would never

make an attempt to be Jim Leyland. I’m going to be who I am.”

Detroit is one of at least three teams with first-time major

league managers who should have a chance to win right away in 2014.

The Washington Nationals hired Matt Williams to replace Davey

Johnson. The Cincinnati Reds, who fired Dusty Baker after a 90-win

season, went with pitching coach Bryan Price as their new

manager.

Ausmus is the latest former player to take over a contending

team with little managerial experience. Mike Matheny succeeded Tony

La Russa in St. Louis after the Cardinals won the World Series in

2011, and Matheny reached the NL championship series in 2012 and

won the National League pennant this year.

Former New York Yankees star Don Mattingly is the manager of the

Los Angeles Dodgers, the team the Cardinals beat in the NLCS this

season.

”I was just playing the game three years ago,” Ausmus said.

”I have a pretty good understanding of how the locker room dynamic

is.”