Ausmus: Look for different style, different lineups during spring games
Brad Ausmus arrived at Tigers camp on Thursday with a much higher comfort level than he had last year as a first-year manager with a team he didn’t know. He also came in with a year of experience on how to run a training camp, and what from Spring Training applies during the regular season.
It’s with the latter in mind that he already warned reporters about some changes ahead in he’ll do while they’re down here.
“Probably this Spring Training compared to last Spring Training, we’ll be using the games [for a] much more practical/practice standpoint,” he said Thursday. “We’re going to do things that we might not do during the regular season just so we’re comfortable enough with them when we break camp that we can use them at any point.”
If you remember, the Tigers weren’t exactly boring during Grapefruit League play last spring. They were aggressive on the basepaths and on defensive shifts, and they were emphasizing fundamentals and game awareness on a daily basis. Some of that was tempered once the season began, and they ended up stepping back defensively. They had some pregame refresher sessions during the season on things such as pickoffs and relays on defense and situational hitting and bunting on offense.
“I want us to be so comfortable as a team in certain aspects of our defense or offense,” Ausmus said, “that there’s no concern when you get into a real game, because you practiced that so many times during exhibition games.”
Ausmus used pickoff plays as one example. With some of their supporting hitters, it’ll be interesting to see if that extends to offensive creativity, notably with more speed on the roster with Anthony Gose and Jose Iglesias.
Expect Ausmus to also tinker with his lineup as he tries to figure out what to do with the second spot and the bottom of the order. He’ll keep Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez at third and fourth once they’re healthy, and he said he’ll probably lead off Ian Kinsler against right-handed pitchers with Rajai Davis against lefties. Other than that, he’s still thinking spots over.
“This is one of the things I’ve kind of pondered a lot over the offseason,” Ausmus said. “What can we do to make our lineup better with the personnel we have? How can we squeeze the most out of this lineup? And there’s a little bit of a crapshoot. Certain guys have good years, certain guys have bad years, but you try to look at it from a broad perspective based on what they’ve done in the past.
“Quite frankly, I haven’t decided on anything. I really haven’t. Some of the things I’ve talked about, like possibly hitting Alex [Avila] second. If Miggy and Victor are back, I’d probably still leave them where they’re at. But how do you use J.D. [Martinez] and Cespedes? How does the bottom of the lineup shape up? Trust me, I’ve looked at a lot in terms of how many at-bats each slot in the order gets, what slots in the order have the most men on base, how many times guys on our roster have scored from second on a single, how many times they’ve scored from first on a double.
“Trust me, this is probably the one thing I’ve looked at the most, and right now I can tell you with all certainty that I’m not sure.”
He wants to talk with coaches and players about it, though he has a better background on many of his hitters now than he did a year ago.
One thing that will carry over from last year is the offbeat team meetings Ausmus would have in the clubhouse before workouts. Those meetings included this encounter between Torii Hunter and an alligator, among other things.
“It’s already been brought up,” Ausmus said. “I think the players enjoyed it. They brought it up a few times. Well, it was coming back whether they liked it or not.”