Day off for Ian Kinsler at his old home park. Andrew Romine, who was out over the weekend with groin tightness, returns to start at second base.
TIGERS (career numbers against Colby Lewis)
- Anthony Gose, CF (1-for-3, K)
- Tyler Collins, LF (0-for-3)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (9-for-26, 5 doubles, 3 walks, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (10-for-21, 3 doubles, HR, 2 walks)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-6, double, HR)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-7, 2 walks)
- James McCann, C
- Andrew Romine, 2B (2-for-6, K)
- Dixon Machado, SS
P: Justin Verlander
RANGERS (career numbers off Verlander)
- Delino DeShields Jr., CF (1-for-3, 2 K’s)
- Shin-Soo Choo, RF (13-for-55, double, 2 HR, 8 walks, 23 K’s)
- Prince Fielder, DH (0-for-8, 2 K’s)
- Adrian Beltre, 3B (14-for-51, 2 doubles, HR, 2 walks, 9 K’s)
- Mitch Moreland, 1B (6-for-22, 4 doubles, 3 walks, 8 K’s)
- Josh Hamilton, LF (6-for-22, 2 walks, 10 K’s)
- Elvis Andrus, SS (8-for-33, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Rougned Odor, 2B (0-for-5)
- Chris Gimenez, C
P: Colby Lewis
Alex Avila gets behind the plate in what could be his final home start as a Tiger. Same goes for Rajai Davis, who gets the start in center field as Anthony Gose gets the day off. Josh Wilson, meanwhile, makes his second start at shortstop this season.
TIGERS (career numbers vs. Ervin Santana)
- Rajai Davis, CF (4-for-20, double, walk, 7 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (20-for-62, 6 doubles, triple, HR, 5 walks, 5 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, DH (5-for-21, HR, 3 walks, 5 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, 1B (10-for-28, 2 HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-9, HR, 3 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-2, double)
- Tyler Collins, LF (1-for-3, double, K)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-12, HR, 3 walks, 3 K’s)
- Josh Wilson, SS (8-for-21, double, triple, HR, K)
P: Randy Wolf
TWINS (career numbers against Wolf)
- Brian Dozier, 2B
- Aaron Hicks, LF
- Joe Mauer, 1B (0-for-3)
- Miguel Sano, DH
- Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-5, HR, walk)
- Eduardo Nunez, 3B (0-for-3)
- Eduardo Escobar, SS
- Kurt Suzuki, C (1-for-3, double)
- Byron Buxton, CF
P: Ervin Santana
Tigers general manager Al Avila’s announcement keeping Brad Ausmus as manager for next season touched on a handful of key points for why he came to the decision. Among them:
The improvement from young players as the season has gone on. While Avila mentioned key players who have improved under Ausmus’ watch, Ausmus and Avila talked about the fact that the teaching process doesn’t stop when a player reaches the big leagues.
“Brad physically has gotten involved with each player — McCann, Gose,” Avila said. “I mean, he goes out there and he works with these players, hand-in-hand in trying to get them better. So it’s not that he’s teaching from a distance, he’s actually in there with them. … The staff, for me, has done a great job. Look at the young pitchers we’ve acquired. If you look at the young pitchers we’ve acquired, since they’ve been here, they’ve actually improved.”
In addition, Avila said: “You have to understand one thing: It starts from the minor leagues to the big leagues where you teach baserunning, you teach base stealing, you teach other aspects of the game. That has not stopped. In our meeting, we’ve addressed it where we acknowledge in today’s world, today’s baseball, there are young players being pushed to the big leagues probably a lot sooner than they should be here. We’re a perfect example of that. We’ve got Triple-A pitchers that have not had good seasons in Toledo pitching at the big league level. I can acknowledge that right now. We’ve had players come up from Toledo that have not had good seasons in Toledo come up and play. So we’re force-feeding here. As much teaching as you can possibly do, some of these guys are going to make some mistakes. It’s on the player, really. You go through that process of teaching and practicing, and at the end of the day the player has to perform. You have to acknowledge that sometimes, players are pushed too fast and it just takes time.”
Avila also talked about getting support from key veteran players, as did Ausmus.
“Baseball is a sport of individuals. At some level, they’re all playing for themselves,” Ausmus said. “But they have to understand that the bigger goal is winning and we have the vast majority of players on this team understand that, especially the veteran players.”
Avila noted the preparation level he has seen from Ausmus and his coaching staff.
“I can tell you he really works hard at preparing before each game,” Avila said. “What people don’t understand is, when we hired Brad, he and I had talked one on one quite a bit about what we felt, what I felt, what some people felt, we needed [from] the leadership role on this club. And one of [the factors] was that he himself had to personally get involved in the teaching of these young players. And he has. And that’s one of the things that I’m proud of him, because I know what he does. I know what he does in that office with his staff preparing for each game. I know how he comes out and works individually with each player. In that batting cage, he takes a personal approach to each guy. Those are things that I look at. The average person out there watching on TV or in the stadium, maybe they don’t understand that, which is fine, because they don’t need to understand that. But it’s my job to know that.”
The preparation and effort level stayed consistent, Avila noted, during tough times down the stretch, especially when Ausmus’ future faced greater scrutiny.
“It’s easy when things are going good and some of the things that should happen that don’t, maybe you ignore it or whatever,” Avila said. “But the most important time is, when things are going bad and the [crap] hits the fan, let’s just say, ‘OK, now let’s see what these guys are made of.’ That’s when the real inner person comes out. And he has shown me that he is calm, cool and collected and has continued the course, continued working through all kinds of stupid [stuff] that’s been going out there. And that’s what has impressed me.”
Lastly, there was an acknowledgement that the team Ausmus managed wasn’t the team he was expected to have going on, both through injuries early on and through trades in July.
The first huge decision of the new Tigers regime established this: Al Avila makes the calls.
That appeared to be in serious question two weeks ago after reports about Brad Ausmus’ impending dismissal and the mixed messages that followed. Avila answered both Saturday: Ausmus is the manager for 2016. And Avila is making the baseball decisions.
For the Tigers to move forward with a realistic goal to contend next season, and for Avila to establish himself as a general manager, the latter was just as important — if not moreso — than the former. Both had to be answered.
Both had been clouded in some level of mystery since Avila replaced Dombrowski a month and a half ago. Ausmus was Dombrowski’s hire, though Avila played an active role in the process. Avila was Mike Ilitch’s immediate pick once the owner decided to dismiss Dombrowski. Avila got a five-year contract, one year longer than Dombrowski’s last deal, but he didn’t get all of Dombrowski’s old titles.
There currently is no Tigers president or chief executive officer. Avila is the senior vice president of baseball operations, and the press release announcing his hire noted that he reports directly to Mike Ilitch.
Like any GM, Avila earned the right to pick his own manager, and the right to evaluate the people who were officially hired by his predecessor, even if Avila was part of the hiring process. When reports emerged about Ausmus on his way out at season’s end, that evaluation process had a bad look, like it had been circumvented.
Whatever the sources of the reports, they didn’t come out of baseball operations, according to Avila. He hadn’t made any decision.
“When the report came out I was being fired, after talking to Al, I felt like it didn’t come from the baseball operations side,” Ausmus said. “Al was very open and honest with me the next morning we spoke, and we’ve spoken a number of times since then. Our relationship has always been good, so I knew whatever the decision was, that Al would be honest with me.”
Avila couldn’t speak for other departments, and while he confirmed with Ilitch that the evaluation process was still ongoing, the appearance of at least an opinion from somewhere in the organization lingered with a report and no resolution. And that put Avila in an admittedly awkward position.
It looked awkward for ownership, too. What made the Tigers structure work for a decade under Dombrowski was the appearance of trust. Ilitch was willing to put money into his general manager’s ideas to field a quality ballclub without overly interfering in how the GM goes about it, with the occasional exception such as a Johnny Damon.
“When Mr. Ilitch put me in this position as general manager, he basically let me make the decision,” Avila said. “I said, ‘Well, let me take these two months to make this decision. I will evaluate this.’ He allowed me to make the decision. This is my decision.
“I talked to [Ilitch on Friday]. I was getting closer to thinking this way. You had to weigh out a lot of things, the positives, the negatives. So there’s a lot of things to think about, up and down the system. I even thought about things in the minor leagues, and how they would be approached at the Major League level.”
Avila made an evaluation of the entire player development system, and he had his assistants take various looks at the club on the road. He talked with his assistants, more than one of whom went to bat for Ausmus. He talked with players about the atmosphere on the team and the push for more wins.
Then came the reports, and then everything came into question. Avila had enough trust in ownership to make a statement at the time. Ausmus had enough trust in Avila to let the evaluation process play out and not ask for an immediate decision.
And by today’s indications, Ilitch had enough trust in Avila to let him take care of it.
“Mr. Ilitch left it up to me, and I made the decision,” Avila said. “I called him. I said, ‘Mr. Ilitch, I’m going to keep Brad Ausmus.’ He said, ‘God bless you, move forward.’”
The Tigers are ready to move forward. It’s easier now that this is done.
Brad Ausmus is staying as Tigers manager. General manager Al Avila announced Saturday that Ausmus and his entire coaching staff will remain in charge for next season, ending speculation surrounding the second-year manager’s future.
“After almost two months of watching this team play, evaluating our staff and the manager, a lot of discussion with my staff — David Chadd, John Westhoff, Scott Bream, Jim Leyland, Al Kaline amongst others — I’ve decided that Brad Ausmus should be our manager going into 2016,” Avila said in a Saturday afternoon press briefing in the Tigers dugout at Comerica Park.
Ausmus, hired in November 2013 by then-president and GM Dave Dombrowski, will be entering the final season of his three-year contract. No talks have taken place on anything beyond that, but after a two-month evaluation by Avila, he has the front office’s backing to lead next season.
The decision came from Avila, he said, with support from owner Mike Ilitch, who named Avila as his GM in August.
“Mr. Ilitch left it up to me, and I made the decision,” Avila said. “I called him, I said, ‘Mr. Ilitch, I’m going to keep Brad Ausmus.’ He said, ‘God bless you, move forward.’”
He made the decision knowing what some of the fan reaction could be. But he made it thinking about the on-field product gearing up for next season.
“I know where the criticism is. My thing is I believe that Brad has the talent, the knowhow to lead and mentor the young players that are on this team,” Avila said. “They’ve shown great improvement. Guys like James McCann, Nick Castellanos, Anthony Gose, these guys have improved under Brad and his staff. We have a lot of young pitchers also that have improved. He also has the respect and the backing of the veteran players on this team. So that combination, to me, tells me that Brad is the right man to lead this team into next year.
McCann, in particular, has been a focus on Ausmus’ teaching as the season has gone on. Ausmus has had him take on responsibility with scouting reports for pitchers going into series and game plans going into each contest.
The Tigers saw their four-year reign atop the American League Central end this year at the hands of the Royals. Their next loss will clinch their first losing season since 2008 and officially eliminate them from Wild Card contention. It was a disappointing result for a team that had postseason expectations going into the year, even with the Royals’ resurgence.
The struggles cost Dombrowski his job a month and a half ago. The challenge Avila faced was evaluating the struggles in light of the team Ausmus had to work with. Among the factors Avila cited were injuries to Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon and Anibal Sanchez, along with the decision to trade away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria at the end of July — as well as the challenge of working with the youngsters that replaced them, such as Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd, Tyler Collins, Steven Moya and Bruce Rondon.
“I think if you see all the injuries that we’ve had, from Day 1, we didn’t have a chance,” Avila said. “This has been a flawed team coming out of Spring Training because of all the injuries.”
Several veteran players said the same in defense of Ausmus’ work over the past six weeks, including Cabrera, Castellanos, Alex Avila and Ian Kinsler.
That said, the way the Tigers have played down the stretch — their postseason chances essentially over — played a factor, Avila said. Despite an injury-riddled pitching staff, Detroit entered Saturday with a 12-11 record in September and a chance for its first winning month since April. Moreover, the Tigers are 8-5 since reports of Ausmus’ impending dismissal came out two weeks ago.
“This team as you’ve noticed has not given up. They’ve played hard. They’re continuing to try to win every game they can. They’ve never given up. … I know we’ve made some mistakes on the field, but some of those mistakes come when you have young players. Every team has that. The thing is, what do you do about that? I know from the inside, day in and day out, how those things are addressed. I know that we work on these things. I know we work on baserunning; I know that we work on every aspect of the game. I know how this organization, how these guys prepare, before every game.
“We have a system of preparing for every game. And it’s a good system. And it gets followed through. I have every confidence that it will continue and this team will improve. If I didn’t believe that, obviously, I wouldn’t be making this decision. This decision was made based on what I think is best for this organization moving forward.”
Ausmus, for his part, said the reports didn’t impact his work.
“Initially, when the story breaks, it’s a little tough,” he said, “but I’ll be honest with you: It’s been business as usual. We’re prepared exactly the same way. I can’t control what’s written. After talking with Al about it, he said it didn’t come from them. I knew that baseball operations people, of course Al and Mr. Ilitch, would make the decision. And I just continue to do my job. I said I would do my job until they ask me to leave or until my contract expired, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. But we do expect things to be better in 2016.”
The expectation for 2016, Avila said, remains to contend for a title next season. The expectation going into next season is to give Ausmus a better chance at that.
“Once the season’s over, going into October, we’ll have our major league staff come in, we’ll have our advisors in there, too, and we’ll go over every single organization,” Avila said. “We’ll figure out where some possible trades could be made, we’ll rank all the free-agent guys we may be interested in out there, and we’ll try to acquire some of the players that we need additionally to make this team a winning team next year.
“Thank goodness, though, we feel like we have a good core of players here that are a mix of some veterans with some nice young players that are up and coming. That core is very important, because you can’t create a whole, brand new team. We have the basics, the core players here to start that process of just adding a few more to have a winning team.”
Ausmus, they believe, is the guy to lead them.
“You can see the improvement of the young players, and you can see the dedication and the pride in the veteran players,” Avila said. “To me, I’m very proud of how they have faced adversity, how they have come up and continued to do their best, and play their best. And they, in their hearts, all want to come back next year and try to win that championship.”
Miguel Cabrera returns to the Tigers lineup after being rested for Wednesday’s game to ease the wear and tear on his lower back. Rajai Davis gets the start in left against Mike Pelfrey, whose lefty-righty splits this year are near-even on batting average but about 100 points different in OPS in favor of left-handed hitters. Over the previous few seasons, however, right-handed hitters have fared better against Pelfrey.
- Anthony Gose, CF (5-for-12, 2 doubles, 2 walks, 2 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-16, 2 doubles, HR, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-26, 7 walks, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-23, double, walk, 5 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-9, double, 5 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-8, HR, walk)
- James McCann, C
- Andrew Romine, SS (0-for-1, walk)
- Rajai Davis, LF (3-for-8, double)
P: Matt Boyd
- Aaron Hicks, CF
- Brian Dozier, 2B
- Joe Mauer, 1B
- Miguel Sano, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B
- Torii Hunter, RF
- Eddie Rosario, LF
- Kurt Suzuki, C
- Eduardo Escobar, SS
P: Mike Pelfrey
Jim Leyland can let out a good cry, as some of his postseason celebrations showed. But sometimes in the moments of greatest sorrow, he doesn’t want to. When it comes to remembering the late Yogi Berra, who passed away early Wednesday morning at age 90, he’d rather celebrate a life.
“It’s a tough loss,” Leyland said, “but I think about the great times that I had with Yogi, and the most unbelievable thing that I got to know him. He was my childhood hero, and not only did I get to know him, but we became pretty good friends.
“I thought that was a helluva thing that worked out. When I was a kid and bought my first Yogi Berra catching mitt, I never imagined we’d be friends.”
It was an unlikely friendship, a Hall of Fame catcher who will go down as one of the greatest Yankees of all time, and a manager who never played in the big leagues. But once they met during Leyland’s early coaching days, they not only stayed in touch for 30 years, they made a point to visit each other.
Early on in Leyland’s career, they’d talk about managing, Berra recalling his days in charge of the Mets and Yankees, Leyland getting a grasp of managing in the big leagues. But they’d also talk about life, and trade jokes and stories, and share laughs.
“He gave me a lot of advice over the years,” Leyland said. “He didn’t come out and say you’ve gotta do this, you’ve gotta do that. He talked about handling players, the way baseball’s gonna change. He talked about his experiences, the way he did things. And then you put it in your own personality. It was a treat.”
Leyland heard the Yogisms, sure, and he laughed. But he also heard his hero talking about what made him great, an All-Star every year from 1948 to 1962, a three-time AL MVP, a 14-time World Series participant and 10-time champion. And Leyland took it to heart.
“He really in some ways gave hope to all little guys,” Leyland said. “He wasn’t a very big guy. I loved him because I used to ask him questions like, ‘Why you were such a great hitter? What was your philosophy? And he said, ‘I looked for the ball and if I thought I could hit it, I’d swing at it.’ I just appreciated his straightforward approach to the game, nothing too tricky. …
“I think people also have that image of him being a character and the Yogisms and everything, and that’s part of it. But there’s so much more than that. I knew there was so much more there than that. There was a great substance to Yogi, a bright mind talking about baseball, experiences and such.”
And through it all, they bonded.
“When I got to know him, he treated me like I’d been a big-leaguer all my life, like you’d treat a teammate, and I couldn’t get over that,” Leyland said. “He was a left-handed hitting hall of fame catcher, and I was a right-handed hitting, can’t-hit-nothing catcher. I met a lot of great people in baseball, and Yogi was right up there.”
Every time the Tigers headed to New York during Leyland’s time, he’d have a visitor in his office, usually before the first game of the series. That was Yogi. Later, he invited Leyland to the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center in New Jersey for dinner. Leyland went back a couple years ago to join Tony La Russa, Joe Girardi and others for a managerial roundtable.
But if there’s one favorite memory of Yogi that sticks with Leyland, it’s from October. It wasn’t Yogi’s postseason, but Leyland’s. When the Tigers had to go back to Yankee Stadium for a winner-take-all Game 5 in the 2011 AL Division Series, having lost a potential clinching Game 4 in Detroit, Yogi was there to see it, just like another series.
“‘May the best team win, kid,’” Leyland remembers him saying. “He congratulated me after that, too. I’ll never forget it.”
Miguel Cabrera has some lower back issues, so Brad Ausmus decided to give him the day game off. Combined with Thursday’s scheduled off-day, he’ll get two days to rest before Friday night’s game against the Twins to open the final home series of the season. Alex Avila starts at first base, while Ausmus pairs up Gose and Rajai Davis at the top of the order to move Ian Kinsler to the third spot against White Sox rookie Frankie Montas in his first Major League start. Interestingly, Ausmus keeps Victor Martinez in the cleanup spot without any matchup numbers, so that trend might stick.
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Rajai Davis, LF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B
- Victor Martinez, DH
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B
- Alex Avila, 1B
- James McCann, C
- Dixon Machado, SS
P: Justin Verlander
- Adam Eaton, DH (5-for-15, 2 doubles, triple, walk, 4 K’s)
- Jose Abreu, 1B (8-for-16, double, 2 HR, walk, 4 K’s)
- Trayce Thompson, CF
- Melky Cabrera, LF (4-for-26, triple, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Avisail Garcia, RF (1-for-6, double, K)
- Alexei Ramirez, SS (19-for-75, double, HR, 2 walks, 9 K’s)
- Carlos Sanchez, 2B (0-for-3)
- Mike Olt, 3B
- Geovany Soto, C (1-for-6, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
P: Frankie Montas
Look for Daniel Norris to get a bit of a higher pitch count tonight compared to his first outing, when he had 45-50 pitches and finished with 47. He’ll supposed get around 60-65 pitches. The starting pitching of Kyle Ryan and Randy Wolf yesterday actually left the bullpen in fairly good shape, at least enough that they shouldn’t have to stretch Norris if they don’t want to.
On the lineup side, Ausmus has flipped Victor and J.D. Martinez back to their previous spots, restoring V-Mart to the cleanup role. He’s 13-for-27 lifetime off Quintana, including 6-for-9 with two doubles this year.
- Rajai Davis, LF (12-for-38, 3 doubles, triple, HR, 2 walks, 6 K’s)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (10-for-30, 2 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (11-for-30, 4 doubles, HR, 3 walks, 4 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (13-for-27, 2 doubles, 2 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-17, triple, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (6-for-20, walk, 5 K’s)
- James McCann, C (1-for-4, triple, 2 K’s)
- Dixon Machado, SS
- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-3, K)
P: Daniel Norris
- Adam Eaton, CF
- Jose Abreu, 1B
- Trayce Thompson, RF
- Melky Cabrera, LF
- Avisail Garcia, DH
- Alexei Ramirez, SS
- Carlos Sanchez, 2B
- Tyler Flowers, C
- Tyler Saladino, 3B
P: Jose Quintana
Miguel Cabrera returns to the lineup at first base, while Victor Martinez takes the nightcap off, freeing the DH spot for Ian Kinsler. Tyler Collins gets another start in left after going 0-for-3 with a trio of flyouts (one to the right-field track) in Game 1, while Alex Avila gets the start behind the plate, setting up James McCann for a complete day off.
- Rajai Davis, CF
- Ian Kinsler, DH
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (0-for-3, K)
- J.D. Martinez, RF
- Tyler Collins, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-3)
- Alex Avila, C (4-for-4, double, walk)
- Josh Wilson, 2B (0-for-1, walk)
- Andrew Romine, SS
P: Randy Wolf
- Micah Johnson, 2B
- Tyler Saladino, SS
- Jose Abreu, DH
- Trayce Thompson, LF
- Avisail Garcia, RF
- Mike Olt, 1B (0-for-3, K)
- Gordon Beckham, 3B (1-for-5, double)
- Rob Brantly, C
- Leury Garcia, CF
P: Erik Johnson