Jones back as pitching coach, Dave Clark at third base
Jeff Jones is staying. Actually, the Tigers pitching coach never thought about leaving. As long as new manager Brad Ausmus wanted him around, he was on board.
It didn’t take long for Ausmus to realize he was a guy worth keeping. Less than 72 hours after Ausmus was introduced as Detroit’s new manager, Jones was re-introduced as the pitching coach in a press release, along with new third-base coach/outfield instructor Dave Clark.
“I never really thought about [leaving],” Jones said Wednesday from his Detroit area home. “I’m perfectly content here and I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to stay. It’s a difficult situation for a young manager, and I knew Brad from when he played here.”
Two of Jones’ five stints as Tigers bullpen coach coincided with Ausmus’ second tenure as a Tigers catcher, so there was a working relationship between the two. While Ausmus wanted to talk with Jones first before selecting his pitching coach, he was believed to be the leading candidate, not because of their history but because of the Tigers’ pitching dominance under Jones’ leadership.
It’s no coincidence the two talked on Sunday night, just a few hours after Ausmus’ first press conference.
In 2 1/2 seasons as pitching coach, Jones has overseen a Tigers rotation blossom into baseball’s best. He has been a mentor for Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, and became a trusted voice for Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez after they came over in midseason trades.
“He does a terrific job,” former manager Jim Leyland said earlier this year. “He’s like a mother hen to them; he protects them. He’s a nice buffer between me and the pitchers, which is very important. He’s very supportive of me and my decisions. He’s really done a whale of a job, to be honest with you.”
Jones doesn’t believe inexperience is going to be a huge issue for Ausmus.
“I really like Brad,” Jones said. “He’s a great baseball guy and obviously a very intelligent guy. I like his intensity. I like everything about him. He played the game and he played hard. He played with a desire to win.”
Clark joins the Tigers from Houston, where he spent this past season as first-base coach under Bo Porter after spending four years as the Astros’ third-base coach. He was let go at season’s end and was on track to return to managing at Double-A Huntsville in the Brewers farm system before he had two chances to join a big-league staff.
“We played together in Houston,” Ausmus said in a text message. “He was also a manager in the Astros organization when I was still playing there.”
While Clark was in talks with the Tigers this week, he also was expected to get an offer to join Seattle under Lloyd McClendon. Clark was McClendon’s hitting coach in Pittsburgh in 2001 and 2002. After finding success managing in the Pirates and Astros farm systems, he joined Cecil Cooper’s staff in Houston in 2009 and carried over to Brad Mills’ staff.
Clark also has ties to Leyland, playing 4 1/2 seasons with the Pirates as part of a 13-year Major League career.
The moves leave the Tigers needing at least one hitting coach — they had two last season — plus first-base, bullpen and infield coaches. Though Ausmus has now kept two coaches from Leyland’s staff, he’s expected to look at other candidates for the remaining spots.
Asked if he hopes to finalize his staff soon, Ausmus texted: “Working on it.”