Game 3: The flip side of aggressiveness
Spring Training lasts around 30 games, all of them mathematically meaningless in the big picture of a baseball season, some of them meaningless towards the pure goal of season preparation. Many hitters, if healthy, don’t usually need that many games to get ready. The ones who truly take advantage of that full time are starting pitchers, who need to stretch out their arms to be ready to throw 100 pitches. What else goes on while pitchers stretch out is up to the manager to determine how to use.
In that light, Brad Ausmus has 30-plus games in which to try to establish an aggressive mentality on the basepaths. He also has that many games to figure out who can really take advantage of that and who doesn’t stand a good chance of taking that extra 90 feet.
If Wednesday’s win over the Braves was a good example of what an aggressive mentality can accomplish, Friday’s loss to the Yankees was the flip side, the reminder of the risk that goes with the reward. The Tigers made three outs on the bases in the first three innings, each by a different player at a different base, and five outs on the bases overall. They saw speedy Rajai Davis, who outran a pickoff play Wednesday, nabbed off second base Friday with Miguel Cabrera up to bat. Then they saw Cabrera try to catch the Yankees napping and go first-to-third following a Victor Martinez walk.
“We told them from day one that we wanted to force the defense to make the play,” Ausmus said. “Well, today they made the plays. But on two of those, three actually, they had to make perfect throws. They put the throws right there on the money and the guys were out, so that happens. …
“We knew going in that we were going to have this aggressive style, and not fault somebody for getting thrown out or taking a chance. That applies to [third base coach Dave Clark] too when he’s waving guys around third.”
The more chances they take, the more they learn their capabilities when they press the issue. That’s part of the goal
“We want them to take chances now,” Ausmus said. “You hope that creates kind of an overall mentality for baserunning as a team that we’re always trying to go the extra 90 or 180 feet. But it gets refined. As players realize what they can and can’t do, they start to understand, well, we can’t run hog wild. But the third day of Spring Training games, let’s go after it. Let’s force them to make the play. They made the plays today.”
That includes the play on Cabrera, who has always been an instinctive player with an awareness for what’s going on at most every spot between the foul lines. Ausmus has no problem with Cabrera testing the alertness level of Yankees starter Adam Warren and the left side of the infield.
“Miggy saw the third baseman was playing over towards the shortstop hole, and he thought he might be able to get there,” Ausmus said. “If he had kind of slowed down at second and acted like he was stopping, rather than just continuing, he might have got it. He also might have got it if he was 10 years younger.”