Source: Tigers bringing Brad Ausmus back

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — It appears Brad Ausmus will return to manage the Tigers for a fourth season.

A source close to the negotiations between general manager Al Avila and Ausmus told The News late Tuesday that the club had agreed to exercise its option and give Ausmus a fourth year.

The Tigers would not confirm anything Tuesday night, but an announcement is expected soon, possibly as early as Wednesday.

Ausmus posted a 250-234 record in his first three seasons. After he led the Tigers to a fourth straight Central Division title in 2014, they fell to last place in 2015.

This season, despite having his starting lineup for just 11 games, and having to overhaul the starting rotation with three young pitchers, he kept the Tigers in playoff contention until the final day of the season.

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“From my point of view, if he’s our manager next year, then he’s our manager — there is no sense in second-guessing it, or in thinking someone else could be better,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said after the season-ending loss Sunday. “The grass isn’t always greener (on the other side).

“We’ve got the guy who’s been here for three years. He was new to the job three years ago. He’s gained experience. He knows this team. He knows the players. It’s not my position to second-guess it.”

Ausmus, who refused to comment on his future with the team, passed all the credit on to the players, telling them Sunday he was proud of their tenacity and the way they battled through aches and pains, especially down the stretch.

“One thing I will take away is how well this team did the second half,” he said. “We were dead in the water in a lot of people’s minds in July and the guys played hard and continued to play hard all the way through to the last game.”

Ausmus did say he absolutely wanted to return for a fourth season.

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s a team that’s got a chance to win. We’ve got good young pitching. We’ve got a bona fide ace at the top (Justin Verlander) and we’ve got good young pitchers that are going to grow and get better.”

Avila, who retained Ausmus after last season when a loud segment of the fan base was calling for him to be fired, praised Ausmus throughout the season, especially for the way he managed the pitching staff.

Tigers starting pitchers averaged just 5.7 innings per start this season, yet Ausmus managed for the most part to keep the bullpen fresh until the end of the season.

He also was able to limit rookie pitcher Michael Fulmer’s innings without having to shut him down in September.

He stayed patient when sluggers Miguel Cabrera, Justin Upton and Victor Martinez struggled and they repaid his faith with a combined 96 home runs and 281 RBIs. He benched Upton for three games and Upton responded by hitting .309 with a 1.162 OPS, 18 home runs and 41 RBIs from Aug. 20 on.

The Tigers are in the process of transitioning to a younger core group and Ausmus and his staff have had good results with the development of the likes of catcher James McCann, third baseman Nick Castellanos and pitchers Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd.

He will have the opportunity to continue the mission in 2017. @cmccosky