Ilitch backs Avila, says Tigers are on 'path to success'

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Brad Ausmus talks to Nick Castellanos in the Detroit Tigers dugout on Friday night after it was announced Ausmus would not return as manager next season.

Detroit — Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, gave a very strong vote of confidence to general manager Al Avila on Friday.

On the day Avila announced manager Brad Ausmus would not return next season, Ilitch praised the work of Avila and his staff.

“I am very confident the Detroit Tigers are on a path to sustained success,” Ilitch said after taking part in the club’s 117th team photo. “I am very pleased with how decisive and determined Al and his staff have been to move our organization forward.

“We’re energized with the infusion of young talent we’ve added.”

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Ilitch was part of the Tigers’ war room at the draft and came away impressed.

“It was impacting to see firsthand the hard work and commitment of our baseball operations staff. We are going to continue to provide all the resources and tools to Al and his staff to build one of the finest player development systems in all of baseball.

“They have us on a path so the Tigers can contend for World Series championships.”

Ilitch also reiterated there were no plans to sell the ballclub.

“I am committed and we are committed to long-term Ilitch ownership of the Detroit Tigers,” he said.

Search party

By announcing on Friday that Ausmus would not be returning for 2018, Avila gets bit a of a head start on the managerial search.

“We are going to be open-minded to everything,” Avila said. “It’s going to be an extensive search with a lot of names. We’re going to do a lot of background checks and we will have a good list and we will whittle it down little by little.”

Avila said experience will be a requirement, but he gave a broad definition of what he means by experience. He said it can be somebody who has managed at the minor-league level, somebody who has managed at the major-league level and it could be someone who has extensive coaching experience in the big leagues — like a longtime bench coach.

As important as experience, though, might be energy and patience.

“I don’t know it it’s going to be a young guy, a middle-aged guy or an older guy,” Avila said. “But I would like to get a guy who has the energy to get through the process. Because it’s going to be a long process and a hard process.

“But what we are selling is an opportunity. You going to be the manager of the Detroit Tigers in full rebuild mode and you’re going to have all the opportunity in the world in front of you to go from the bottom to the top.”

Avila said he has told members of Ausmus’ staff that they are free to interview for the job. Specifically, Lloyd McClendon and Gene Lamont would be candidates.

“What I told the staff was, I told them that anyone that’s interested in being interviewed, I will be open-minded and interview them. I don’t think we have anybody at the minor-league level right now who would be ready for this job.”

Loving the D

Ausmus has developed a true fondness for the city of Detroit and the baseball community here. And he expressed that on Friday.

“I thank Mike and Marian Ilitch and Chris, they’ve been tremendous to me as a player and now as a manager,” Ausmus said. “I’ve really enjoyed where I’ve lived here. I enjoy the city and I enjoy Birmingham.

“People outside of Michigan and the Detroit area don’t really get what’s happening in this city. But this city is on the brink of a renaissance and this is going to be the place to be.” @cmccosky