Tigers bench coach Gene Lamont expects to field more questions from new manager Brad Ausmus than he did with veteran Jim Leyland. (Robin Buckson / Detroit News)
He was the former manager’s trusted adviser.
Now, he’ll be the new manager’s trusted teacher.
When Gene Lamont returns to Detroit this week for the Tigers caravan and TigerFest, he’ll do so as a vestige of the Jim Leyland era.
But also as part of the team’s present and future under Brad Ausmus.
“I can’t say it won’t be different,” Lamont said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “Brad and I are friends, but Jim and I are best friends.
“I’m looking forward to it, though.”
As he did last year, after turning the third-base coaching duties over to Tom Brookens, Lamont will be serving as the bench coach — with one significant difference.
As Leyland’s bench coach, he knew the boss was aware of all pitfalls, had experienced all traps into which a manager could fall, and had the foresight to plan as many steps ahead as might be required.
“Jim was such a veteran manager,” Lamont said. “Did we always agree? No, but I knew I could say whatever I wanted to say.”
Now, along comes a rookie manager whose thought process will be new, but because he caught in the majors for 18 years, is no stranger to strategy.
“I think Brad will handle it real well,” Lamont said. “He’ll probably ask more questions, and if I see stuff, I’ll bring it up to him.
“Probably the biggest thing to begin with will be to remind him to get his bullpen up early enough.”
Ausmus will be a work in progress because rookie managers always are, even when bright futures are predicted.
So, Lamont’s role will be different in that, without precedent, he won’t automatically sense what Ausmus is thinking.
Chances are Lamont will be turned to more often, especially early.
Chances are his opinion will be sought more frequently than it was, not that Leyland didn’t value it.
“As a player, you face a lot of situations,” Lamont said. “But there are situations players don’t go through that a manager does.”
Chances also are, in his low-key but knowledgeable way, Lamont will be a more essential component of the team than he was.
And judging by the speed with which he turned to him to stay, Ausmus knows just how valuable Lamont will be.
Consequently, Lamont never had the what-now feeling of being a coach on a changing team.
He never had to feel, for instance, what Brookens and Rafael Belliard, coaches still out of a job, had to feel.
Still, the respect between Lamont and Ausmus is mutual. Had he been hired to manage the Red Sox before the 2012 season, Lamont said Ausmus would have been a prime candidate for his staff — even though he hadn’t coached before.
That’s how much Ausmus’ acumen is valued.
“When he was a player in Houston and I was there, it was easy to see how smart he is,” Lamont said.
But now, Lamont has become a coach for Ausmus.
The transition from one regime to another has its connecting points.
There are holdovers, and Lamont is one.
But it will require some getting used to for Lamont whenever he enters the manager’s office.
For one thing, there won’t be an ashtray on the desk.