Ausmus: ‘I haven’t been told anything’ about firing

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland — If Brad Ausmus is going to be fired at the end of the season, as WDIV was reporting late Thursday night, it’s news to him.

“I haven’t been told anything,” Ausmus said in a text message to The Detroit News.

He opted not to comment further.

It certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise if it happens, though. Ausmus, in the second of a three-year deal, was hired by former president and general manager Dave Dombrowski. Dombrowski was fired on Aug. 4.

Al Avila is now running the baseball operations for owner Mike Ilitch and it stands to reason he would like to hire his own manager to run club.

Neither Avila, who is not traveling with the team on this trip, nor assistant general manager David Chadd, responded to phone and text messages Thursday night.

After Ausmus led the Tigers to their fourth straight American League Central Division title last year, the team has been in a freefall since the July 31 trade deadline when Dombrowski traded away David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and Joakim Soria — three of the team’s top players.

After the 7-5 loss to the Indians on Thursday, they sit 12 games under .500 (64-76) and in last place in the division. They were 50-53 on July 31 and have gone 14-23 since.

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But to lay all the blame on Ausmus for the slide would be foolhardy. The team has been beset by injuries to key personnel from the start of the season — with Joe Nathan, Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, Anibal Sanchez and Alex Avila all missing considerable time.

The Tigers are also at or near the bottom in just about every pitching category — both starting and relief pitching. The current pitching staff features 11 players who began the season in the minor leagues.

The starting rotation has been reduced to Justin Verlander, Alfredo Simon and then a makeshift group that has included rookies Matt Boyd, Daniel Norris (injured), Buck Farmer and Kyle Lobstein, plus 39-year-old Randy Wolf who spent the majority of the season in Triple A.

There isn’t a manager in the game today who could win consistently with this staff.

But, as Ausmus has said in the past, it’s a results-oriented business and when a team underperforms, it’s the manager who is held accountable.

According to the WDIV Local 4 report, Bernie Smilovitz had been in contact with a source within the Tigers’ front office “over the past two weeks” who said Ausmus would be fired at the end of the season.

Smilovitz also cited the unnamed source as saying Ilitch doesn’t feel Ausmus is the manager who can lead this team to a championship, and that he was unhappy about some of the “miscommunication” with the players and strategic mistakes on the field.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported last week that he too was getting indications that Ausmus would be out after the season — which again, is not a surprise. He did say, though, that Ausmus was well-respected throughout baseball and would get another job “in about eight minutes” should the Tigers fire him.

Among the first candidates presumed to be on Avila’s short list would be former Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who has indicated he was ready to return to baseball, and who was named by a source in the WDIV Local 4 report.