Tigers GM gives Ausmus vote of confidence

Avila won't discuss manager's contract until after season, but praises handling of team

Tigers GM gives Ausmus vote of confidence

CHICAGO -- Tigers general manager Al Avila said Saturday he believes they have the team to get into the postseason. He also said he believes they have the manager to lead the way.

The answer was an explanation of why Avila doesn't anticipate swinging a major trade at the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, focusing instead on getting injured Jordan Zimmermann, Daniel Norris and J.D. Martinez back. But the latter part of Avila's answer also provided some insight into Brad Ausmus' situation.

The Tigers have not had discussions with Ausmus about his contract status, Avila said, and will not make a decision on his contract option for 2017 until season's end. However, Avila gave a voice of support to Ausmus' performance this season.

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"First of all, I think he's managed our bullpen tremendously this year," he said. "I mean, you can go back and criticize maybe one or two games and question something, but there's always a reason.

"If you look at the trouble we've had with our starting pitching and the lack of going deep into the games at different points of this year, and how he has kept our bullpen fresh for the most part, that tells me this guy knows what he's doing with his pitching. Because right now, if you look at the innings pitched, it's pretty good, and he's managed that bullpen tremendously as far as making sure that guys are ready to pitch and they're not overtaxed.

"That, to me, right now, is one of the biggest improvements I've seen in him in his overall performance."

Ausmus signed a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth when the Tigers hired him in the fall of 2013 following Jim Leyland's retirement. Detroit's last-place finish last season put Ausmus' status into question until Avila announced with a week to go in the season that Ausmus would be back for 2016.

Ausmus hasn't faced the same speculation so far, but his future has been an occasional topic. Avila, for his part, took issue with the characterization that Ausmus' contract situation affects his job performance.

"I hear sometimes 'lame-duck manager.' That doesn't exist in baseball," Avila said. "That might exist in politics, a lame-duck president or a lame-duck governor, because you can't create policy when you're on your way out. Well, nobody's saying Brad is on his way out. And as the manager of a baseball team, he has the freedom to play whoever he wants to play, do whatever he wants to do. There's no lame duck about it. 

"He's got full authority of this club, and he's got full authority of the players and he's got the full backing of the players."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.