Tempe, Ariz. — Brad Ausmus will absolutely get in on the action during his first spring training as Angels manager. He has already caught a couple of bullpens and plans to jump right into more drills along the way to help his players prepare for a fresh season.
“I get involved pretty good,” he said. “You might see me standing at a position with a glove on, covering a base or taking groundballs. That will happen.”
The former Tigers manager got back behind the plate to catch throwing sessions by Trevor Cahill and Matt Harvey at the Tempe Diablo Stadium complex.
“It’s something I like to do. I did it in Detroit,” Ausmus said. “My frame of reference catching all those years was seeing a pitcher from that angle. It’s easier for me to see something in the delivery or the movement of the pitch from that as opposed to from the side or behind.”
So, how’d they look?
“Good. Think I’d tell you otherwise?” he said with a smile.
Cahill figured Ausmus could still catch, then the right-hander let it rip to his manager with 15 two-seam fastballs away. He had never pitched to his manager previously.
“I remember watching him growing up,” Cahill said Thursday. “Then he actually got his stuff on, and I was like, ‘Hey, he’s going to do it, let’s do it.’”
The 49-year-old Ausmus, who played 18 major league seasons, is charged with the task of getting the Angels back to the playoffs after a four-year absence and eight out of nine years without a postseason berth. Los Angeles got swept by the Royals in the 2014 AL Division Series.
Any pressure as the franchise’s first new manager in nearly two decades with Mike Scioscia’s departure? Scioscia managed 19 major league seasons, wound up with 1,650 career victories and led the wild-card Angels to a World Series title in 2002.
“I was in a similar situation in Detroit replacing Jim Leyland. Jim hadn’t been there as long as Sosh was here, but the bottom line is I’ve got to be me and I’ve got to run the camp the way I think the camp should be run,” Ausmus said. “Anything other than that would be seen as kind of fake by the players. So I’m just going to be me. Sosh obviously had a tremendous managerial career, probably of the likes that we will not see again in modern baseball unless something changes. But I can’t be Mike Scioscia.”
Not that Ausmus is revealing how he might be different or details about how he will operate spring training.
He insists most things aren’t that different from anywhere else around baseball at this time of year.
“If you were to take a drone and fly it over all 30 teams, camps would look generally the same. We cover a lot of the same basics, the fundamentals that need to be covered. So I don’t know that I would point to anything specific and even if I knew of some specific things, I probably wouldn’t tell you. I feel like that’s state secrets. But you won’t notice much of a difference.”
It helps that Ausmus is already familiar with his roster. He spent last season as special assistant to general manager Billy Eppler following four years as Tigers manager. Ausmus had a 314-342 record in Detroit.
“Just in terms of knowing the guys, with a new manager,” he said. “When I got hired in Detroit I came in and the vast majority of players I was meeting for the first time in spring training. There was a handful I met ahead of time. But the vast majority other than talking to on the phone I hadn’t seen or spoken to. These guys, going all the way down to the minor leagues because I traveled through the minor leagues as well, they’ve at least seen me. And a lot of them I’ve had conversations with, especially at the big league level where I spent most of my year.”
His eyes up, Ausmus watches batting practice and takes in other drills early on while also monitoring the action to make sure his players don’t push too hard too soon.
Oh, and off the diamond, Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani already made a keen observation.
“He’s a very good-looking guy,” Ohtani said, then quickly added, “of course Scioscia was good looking, too.”