Ausmus keeping an eye on playoff races

After disappointing end to 2015, Tigers are in the hunt this year

Ausmus keeping an eye on playoff races

DETROIT -- Brad Ausmus experienced the tension of a postseason race from the managerial side in his first season as a skipper two years ago. Going through the motions down the stretch without it last year gave him a taste of life on the other end of the standings.

"Last year, our only purpose for coming to the field [down the stretch] was to finish out the season," Ausmus said. "Now we're coming to the field trying to extend the season."

He isn't immersed into scoreboard-watching mode just yet, but Ausmus is appreciating what he missed last year.

"I definitely look more now than I did," he said. "The first two months of the season, I'll look at highlights of games and parts of games, but I don't look at the standings very often, a cursory glance every week or so."

That said, he pointed to the wild swings of the American League Central race, or the back and forth in the National League West between the Giants and Dodgers, as reasons why it's still too early to put too much into the day-to-day movements of the standings.

"I'll say that I have, not regularly but with more frequency, looked at what other teams are doing in the last week," Ausmus said. "But there's still so much fluctuation."

The division-heavy schedules down the stretch play a role in that. The Tigers and Indians face each other seven times from mid-September to season's end. Detroit visits Kansas City for three games next weekend, then hosts the Royals for three more games in late September. So regardless of gaps in the standings, teams still largely control their own destiny.

Tigers yet to decide September callups

While Ausmus said some names have been me mentioned for potential September callups, he'll get together with general manager Al Avila on Tuesday to discuss expanded rosters.

"We've talked about some names," Ausmus said.

Some callups are fairly routine. The Tigers traditionally call up a third catcher each September, and Triple-A Toledo backstop John Hicks -- acquired off waivers from the Twins in April -- is on the 40-man roster. He entered Sunday batting .300 (70-for-233) for the Mud Hens with eight home runs and 41 RBIs. Dixon Machado, who filled in for Jose Iglesias at shortstop until the Erick Aybar trade, could easily fill the role of extra infielder and pinch-runner. Buck Farmer, Blaine Hardy, Warwick Saupold and Dustin Molleken could all supply extra bullpen depth.

Other callups could be debated. Steven Moya could provide an impact bat off the bench, but the Tigers will have to decide how to keep his bat fresh with limited playing time. Alex Presley could be brought back after being designated for assignment on Saturday to make room for Iglesias, but he'd have to be added back to the 40-man roster.

Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey will technically be September callups upon their returns from the disabled list. Zimmermann felt fine after throwing 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his first of three rehab starts for Toledo on Friday, while Pelfrey is scheduled to throw 40-45 pitches in his first rehab outing for the Mud Hens on Monday.

The most intriguing discussion will involve Mud Hens closer Joe Jimenez, the subject of speculation over a potential callup since he began pitching at Double-A Erie. MLBPipeline.com ranks the 21-year-old as the Tigers' No. 5 prospect.

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.