'Al was great to me': Hinch calls working relationship with Avila effective
Detroit — Tigers manager AJ Hinch didn’t flinch.
Did you get the support you needed from general manager Al Avila?
“Al was great to me,” he said, speaking minutes after Tigers chairman and CEO Christopher Ilitch announced that Avila had been fired as the club’s general manager. “He was the first person who called me and wanted me to come in for an interview. At the time I was on the outside of the sport looking in.
“That meant the world to me. That’s all the support anyone could want.”
Avila also gave Hinch a large voice in player personnel decisions, something his predecessors, Brad Ausmus and Ron Gardenhire didn’t get. It led to some disagreements and frustration on both sides. But Hinch said his relationship with Avila was solid.
“We worked tirelessly to move the ball forward and get the organization moving forward,” Hinch said. “Last year we had momentum. This year we hit a roadblock. Al and I communicated effectively and we interacted a ton.
“As every GM and manager, we had our agreements and disagreements. That’s the nature of the relationship. But I always felt Al gave me his best.”
It seemed clear that Avila was pulling back a bit throughout this season. It started in the offseason when Sam Menzin and Jay Sartori were promoted to vice president and made assistant general managers. Menzin took over a lot of the day-to-day interactions and Avila didn’t travel nearly as much as he has in recent years.
Menzin will now be the contact point for the big-league team.
“He’s been involved in all decisions before,” Hinch said. “If there are any large disagreements, we will go all the way to Chris (Ilitch) if we have to. But we will continue to make collaborative decisions. I don’t anticipate any hiccups in the operation.”
Ilitch made a point, too, to say Hinch will be involved in the search for a new GM. A task Hinch seemed to welcome.
“The Detroit Tigers organization is a good place,” Hinch said. “We have a ton of opportunity. This is the same place that was attractive to me a couple of years ago when I came here. Players, fan base, commitment from ownership and an opportunity to build with a fresh start.
“We have a lot of work to do to get where we want to get to and we might not get there tomorrow. But I think we’re going to get there because of the foundation we have here.”
Brieske to 60-day IL
It got lost in the Avila news, but to make room for Kerry Carpenter to make his big-league debut Wednesday – his contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo – the Tigers needed to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.
Instead of designating a player for assignment, the Tigers moved rookie right-hander Beau Brieske to the 60-day injured list.
“He’s got biceps tendonitis and we were going to shut him down for two weeks,” Hinch said. “Then he would initiate a throwing program for four weeks, so we’re already looking at early September. The 60 days takes him to around the 15th or 16th.
“Instead of losing a player off our 40-man, we’re going to be real careful with him.”
The Tigers are still hopeful Brieske will be able to make a couple more starts before the end of the season.
Around the horn
…Right-hander Michael Pineda threw a simulated game Wednesday, throwing live to Kody Clemens and Jonathan Schoop. He was throwing all three of his pitches, including the slider, which he has stayed away from in his recent bullpens. He could be going out on a rehab assignment soon.
Guardians at Tigers
When: 1:10 p.m., Thursday, Comerica Park
RHP Zach Plesac (2-10, 4.49), Guardians: Things have come apart for him a bit since he limited the Tigers to two runs over six innings on July 4. In his last five starts he’s 0-4 with a 7.04 ERA. Opponents are hitting .300 with a .829 OPS in those starts. Left-handed hitters have hurt him all year, hitting nearly 60 points higher than righties, slugging 100 points better.
RHP Garrett Hill (2-3, 5.10), Tigers: He’s coming off his most impressive start to date, holding the Rays to a run with six strikeouts over 5.2 innings. He was in attack mode more than he had been in his previous starts and his aggression worked. He threw 46% fastballs, which helped set up his four secondary pitches. He got 15 swings and misses and 15 called strikes.