Leyland: Tigers are 'going to be fine' under Ausmus
Jim Leyland’s thought, as deeply rooted as any of Leyland’s famously firm opinions, is that the Tigers are about “to get on a roll” and that they’ll do it with one manager at the helm:
“I think he’s doing a great job and I think they’re going to be fine,” Leyland said Tuesday, speaking of a Tigers team that has lost seven consecutive games and potentially put a Tigers manager in peril.
“I think he’s handling it well,” Leyland said of Ausmus, who was the Tigers’ choice after Leyland retired following the 2013 season. “You go through tough times every now and then, and you just have bad combinations going when the pitching isn’t going well and the hitters are, and then you pitch well and the bullpen falters, and vice versa.
“But I like this team. And I like the manager. I think he’s doing an excellent job. He’s conscientious. I know people get excited, but so many teams are floundering around a little bit right now.”
Leyland is a special assistant to Tigers general manager Al Avila and, at 71, has no interest in managing again in the big leagues, which he said goodbye to, with finality, when he departed in 2013.
He has agreed to manage the United States team in next year’s World Baseball Classic but did so only because the February-March schedule was concise and a fit for Leyland’s tastes as he enjoys semi-retirement.
Leyland said any heat on Ausmus was a natural response to losing streaks that most teams confront at some point in a season.
“Look at all the teams around .500,” Leyland said. “We’ve lost seven in a row and we’re only three-under. I know it doesn’t sound good, but I think we have a heck of a team and we’re going to win a lot of games.
“I’m really encouraged by (Justin) Verlander’s and (Anibal) Sanchez’s last starts. I think that’s a big thing. We’ll look at this thing at some point and say: I can’t remember when they were struggling.”
Leyland supported Ausmus’ strategies of late, particularly in Sunday’s game against the Rangers, which he said Ausmus handled “perfectly” before late-inning bullpen problems, which hadn’t been sabotaging the Tigers, led to a Rangers rally and a sixth consecutive loss.
Leyland said he understood Ausmus’ explanation for why he pinch-hit Victor Martinez in the eighth inning of Monday’s game against the Nationals, a 5-4 defeat, even when it was destined to lead to an intentional walk for Martinez.
It’s all part of a 162-game season, Leyland said. Moments become enlarged when a team is on a slide.
“I truly believe it,” Leyland said. “I think you have an outstanding manager and this team has just got to roll through these things, get some things going.
“They’ll be fine.”