'Just keep blaming me': Former Tigers skipper Brad Ausmus doesn't begrudge fans' ire
Detroit — The return of Shohei Ohtani may have been a more pressing concern for him on Tuesday, but still, Angels manager Brad Ausmus did take some time to reflect on his four somewhat tumultuous seasons at the helm of the Tigers.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Ausmus, who has had his share of turbulence already in his first season with the Angels. “I had a good time when I was in Detroit. We didn’t perform like I was hoping we would, but I loved the area I lived in and had a lot of good times, lot of good memories from here.
“I’m glad to be back.”
Ausmus’ tenure in Detroit bridged the end of the run of four straight American League Central Division titles to the start of the tear-down and rebuild. He took the Tigers to their last division title in 2014. But despite a pitching staff that featured Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price, the Tigers were swept by the Orioles in the first round of the playoffs.
They made one more run with an aging, injured team and a bloated payroll in 2016, winning 86 games but fell 2.5 games short of a wild-card spot.
“It doesn’t weigh on me,” Ausmus said when asked how much those failed runs stayed with him. “This is baseball. I don’t take that stuff to bed with me at night. If I hadn’t gone about my business the right way, maybe I would regret it.
“But we just didn’t win. Simple as that.”
It was mentioned to Ausmus that a segment of the fan base blames him.
“You can just keep blaming me,” he said. “It makes it easier.”
Ausmus has said often, while he was managing in Detroit and after, that he completely understood the fans’ frustrations.
“They want a winner,” he said. “Detroit won, what, three division titles before I got here and one my first year. They were used to watching a winner and they wanted a winner. What fan goes to the ballpark and isn’t upset when their team loses?
“I don’t begrudge that at all.”
Ausmus said he keeps tabs on the Tigers and has stayed in touch with general manager Al Avila and several of the players whom he managed. He talked for several minutes with assistant general manager David Chadd and closer Shane Greene before the game.
“Listen, there is no hard feelings,” Ausmus said. “It’s all good memories. It’s really nice to come back and see some of these people.”
Ausmus has had to deal with some familiar issues in his first year with the Angels — injuries, aging players and spotty pitching.
"It's good to be back in the seat again," he said. "And it's great to be with such a great group of guys. It's a lot of fun to go to the park every day and watch guys like Mike Trout and Albert Pujols go about their business. I am enjoying it."
He got one of his top sluggers back on Tuesday. Ohtani, who had been out with a UCL injury, was the designated hitter and batting third.
"He has big power," Ausmus said. "I've often compared him to Miggy (Cabrera). Miggy had some of the biggest power I've seen off the bat. Shohei has similar power."
He was asked at what point did he decide to bat Ohtani third in the order. And flashing his familiar dry wit, Ausmus said, "When I was hired."
You had to be quick to catch him, but injured Tigers left fielder Christin Stewart was back in the Tigers clubhouse before the game.
He flew up from Lakeland so the Tigers’ medical staff could exam his right quad strain. He was back on a plane to Lakeland a few hours later.
“I feel good, that’s the big thing,” Stewart said. “In a perfect world, I would still be here. But the weather is getting nasty. So I am headed back to Florida and play in a few more games (for the High-A Flying Tigers).
“It’s not a perfect world, but it’s nasty out there and we’re taking every precaution.”
The rain stopped before game time Tuesday, but there was more rain in the forecast Wednesday and Thursday. Instead of having Stewart sit for three days, they want him to keep playing.
“If everything goes OK, he will join us (this weekend) in Minnesota,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But everything checked out. He’s doing fine.”
Better than fine, actually.
In five games at Lakeland, Stewart was hitting .438 (7-for-16) with a double, home run and five RBIs. He had an OPS of 1.164.
Around the horn
The Tigers are pushing Tyson Ross’s next start back a day. Instead of pitching against the Angels on Thursday, he will start the series in Minnesota on Friday.
Left-hander Ryan Carpenter is expected to be called up from Toledo to start on Thursday.
“Tyson needed some extra time,” Gardenhire said. “He has some stiffness in his back, probably from sleeping at the hospital (awaiting the birth of his son last week) on a chair.”
…Gardenhire was asked if there a player that Trout reminded him of.
“Yeah, me at 12 years old,” he said, laughing. “I dominated little league. I killed the ball, got all the awards — then it stopped. He just hasn’t stopped.”
...Left-hander Blaine Hardy (forearm strain) began his rehab assignment in Lakeland on Tuesday. He was scheduled to pitch again on Thursday and, like Stewart, join the team in Minneapolis on Friday.
Angels at Tigers
First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Comerica Park, Detroit
►LHP Tyler Skaggs (3-2, 3.12), Angels: He’s allowed two runs over 11 innings in his last two starts with 10 strikeouts, but his seven hits and six walks allowed suggest he’s had some messy innings. Hitters are 1-for-17 off his change-up, but 12-for-31 (.387) off his curveball.
►LHP Matthew Boyd (3-2, 3.05): He’s allowed three earned runs or less in seven straight starts, and the opponents’ slash-line is among the meekest among American League starters — .205/.267/.298. His 57 strikeouts are fourth-most, and his 11.5 strikeouts-per-nine innings rate and 5.1 strikeout-to-walk rate both rank sixth.