Detroit – Manager Brad Ausmus gave an impromptu state of the team address to the assembled media prior to Wednesday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles.
“I feel like we a have a pretty good team,” he said. “I like this team. What are we, a game under .500? In a division where it’s anyone’s race and we haven’t even come close to hitting our stride, especially offensively.”
What he said didn’t come off as rehearsed spin. It was organic and honest.
“I know it’s doomsday around here, but I feel good about the team,” he said. “That’s the approach I take. It was a tough loss last night but the ebb and flow (of fan and media reaction) is a little steep. We will be fine.”
The sense of doom, Ausmus knows, comes largely from the club’s bullpen struggles. The Tigers have blown nine saves, have allowed more runs after the seventh inning (54) than any team in the American League and have lost four games (in the last nine) when they’ve led in the ninth inning.
That does not inspire faith in the masses, but Ausmus was forthright on that issue, too.
“The way we are set up in the bullpen is not going to change,” Ausmus said. “The people we have here in the bullpen are the people we have. Unless Mariano Rivera comes out of retirement, I don’t think anything is going to change (in terms of personnel).”
There has been a clamoring, publicly, for the Tigers to bring up either Arcenio Leon or Buck Farmer, two pitchers who have been performing well at Triple-A Toledo. Ausmus dismissed the suggestion.
“To think there is some tremendous answer in Toledo would be naïve,” he said. “Right now, this is who we have. This is who we are going with. This is the course we are staying on for the time being.”
Ausmus was asked what he’d say to fans who say there are better options in Toledo than what he’s gotten recently out of Anibal Sanchez and Francisco Rodriguez.
“Find them,” he said. “Tell me who they are. The Detroit Tigers organization has a bunch of baseball people, people who have been in baseball for decades. I think it’s naïve (for fans) to think they may know better.”
Ausmus cited prospect Joe Jimenez as a cautionary example.
“Everybody wanted Joe Jimenez and I tried to tell you from the get-go that he’s still developing,” Ausmus said. “This guy has a chance to be a good pitcher, but to think he was going to come up here and be the answer was a mistake.
“Not only was it a mistake because the information that’s being spread is wrong, but it was a mistake because it was unfair to Joe Jimenez. To think he was going to come up here and lock down the ninth inning, or any inning, it’s just not how it works.”
To Ausmus’ point: Jimenez is the best relief-pitching prospect in the organization. And yet he was tagged for five runs and six hits in 4 1/3 innings in his brief call-up with the Tigers. He is now on the disabled list with a back injury.
“To think that someone like that is going to come up from the minor leagues and change everything, and to think it’s going to go from awful to rosey is naïve,” Ausmus said. “Trust me, if (general manager) Al Avila and I think we can do something that would for sure make it better, we would do it.”
Ausmus said he has given thought to moving Nick Castellanos out of the No. 2 spot in the order, but for the time being, he’s leaving it alone.
“I wouldn’t mind moving Nick, but the question is, who would I hit there,” he said. “J.D. Martinez is swinging it well where he is (sixth) and Justin Upton is good where he’s at (fifth). Plus, I hit Upton there last year and it was disastrous. I hit J.D. there, too, and it didn’t go that well.”
He said moving Jose Iglesias or Tyler Collins into the two-hole was possible, but neither is hitting well enough to warrant it.
“The guys who are the options for hitting second, none of them are swinging it great right now,” he said. “I think longterm, Nick is the answer and I would just as soon let him fight through it.”
Castellanos entered the game Wednesday on a 2-for-25 skid. Collins was 0-for-30. Iglesias was 4-for-30.
Swapping Nos. 5-6?
Ausmus isn’t going to flip-flop Upton and J.D. Martinez, either, at least not based on the four games Martinez has been back.
“It’s a chicken-and-the-egg argument,” he said. “J.D. is tearing the cover off the ball in the sixth spot. Do you want to move him? Baseball players, most of them, are very superstitious. If I move him and he struggles, then I am an idiot for moving him.
“If I leave him and he keeps hitting, I am OK with that. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t ever change it. But it’s just been four games.”