Ausmus at ease with fan second-guessing

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland, with some well-documented exceptions, never minded second-guessing from the fans. He figured it meant they were passionately engaged with the club, and that could never be a bad thing.

Brad Ausmus, who drew fan ire for his use of the bullpen down the stretch last season and had some of his managerial decisions run through the grinder after the loss to the Royals Sunday, has no issue with it, either.

"I can figure out what I am being second-guessed about," he said. "It certainly doesn't bother me. It's fun for fans to be able to engage in that way. In football it's a lot harder to second-guess. You don't have the playbook and things like that. Baseball is right out in front of you. That's what makes it interesting, that's what makes it fun.

"Often there are multiple right answers and multiple wrong answers."

Ausmus said even when he and his staff watch other games in the clubhouse, there's rarely agreement among them on moves that teams make during a game.

"There really isn't necessarily a right answer," he said. "Obviously there are better answers and sometimes there are worse answers. But there isn't always a right answer. So strategy relates itself well to fans at all levels."

There is one aspect of second-guessing managerial moves, though, that Ausmus believes gets overlooked.

"The important thing to remember when you are talking about baseball, the result doesn't always mean it was a bad decision or a good decision," he said. "There have been bad decisions that ended up with good results, and it goes the other way at times, too. It's just the nature of the game."

Roles defined?

Although rookie Angel Nesbitt has pitched consistently well (one run in his last seven outings) and has pitched in the 10th inning the last two games, Ausmus still isn't ready to specify him as the set-up man to closer Joakim Soria.

"The seventh and eighth innings will be some combination of Nesbitt, Joba Chamberlain and Tom Gorzelanny," Ausmus said. "It will depend on what hitters are coming up, whether they are right-handed or left-handed, and what type of success we've had with them. It will be a combination of those three guys."

Ausmus said somebody from that trio may also be called upon to get an out or two in the sixth inning, as well.

Back to pinch-hitting

For the second time this season, the Tigers will play a series in a National League park, and thus play by National League rules. Which means this weekend at St. Louis, designated hitter Victor Martinez takes a seat on the bench and will be used only as a pinch-hitter.

He got two at-bats in the three game series in Pittsburgh early in the season and went 0-for-2.

Although his surgically repaired left knee has slowly gotten stronger, Ausmus said he still wasn't 100 percent. So having three days essentially off?

"I don't think it will hurt," Ausmus said.

Around the horn

Justin Verlander and Bruce Rondon, both on the DL, threw off flat ground again Wednesday. It was considered light tossing for both and Ausmus both came through it well.

… Right-handed hitting catcher James McCann had made eight straight outs against right-handed pitching entering the game Wednesday, and he was 2-for-12 against them in the last three games. How he'd respond to full-time at-bats against righties was a concern, but Ausmus feels he's acquitted himself well.

"He's battled," he said. "I was never worried about him battling. He's got that mentality where he's going to make you work if you're going to beat him. I don't think he's looked uncomfortable at all."

…Ausmus was asked if he ever caught anybody who threw the Eephus pitch like Alfredo Simon does. "Bob Tewksbury," he said. "He threw a 49 mph curve ball to strike out Willie McGee. Willie wasn't happy at all — they were former teammates."

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky