Ausmus, Tigers may talk extension in-season

Ausmus, Tigers may talk extension in-season

CHICAGO -- Has the Tigers' thought process changed on manager Brad Ausmus' status? Maybe, at least subtly.

When the Tigers picked up the option year on Ausmus' contract last October, general manager Al Avila sounded like he was ready to take a year-to-year approach.

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"I personally like the year-to-year deal at this time," Avila said then. "The club can change from year to year. For our organization, having the club option works for us, and actually, I think it works for Brad. There are several managers in today's game that work year to year and there have been managers in the past who've worked year to year. I am comfortable with it. At this point, there is no reason for me or for Brad to think anything different."

Avila was asked Sunday if he and Ausmus have had any talks regarding a new deal.

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"We haven't even approached that yet," Avila said during a dugout session with beat writers and Fox Sports Detroit. "We've been so concentrated on the team itself and moving into the season."

But when asked if they might do so later, Avila paused, then seemingly cracked a door open.

"I think it could potentially come up at some point," Avila said. "I haven't planned for it. We haven't talked about it. But I wouldn't say that it's out of the realm of possibility that it could come up at some point."

Ausmus, for his part, didn't want to discuss the topic, taking the same approach he has held since the Tigers picked up his option.

"I'm not going to get into that," Ausmus said. "Right now I've got one focus, and that's winning on a daily basis, starting with Opening Day."

For now, that's the Tigers' primary focus as well. The intrigue will be what happens if the club transitions next winter to get younger and let some of its veterans walk as free agents while potentially trading others.

For many teams, that type of transition is historically a time for a change in managers. But one of Ausmus' strengths as Detroit's manager, especially the last couple of seasons, has been his ability to work with young players, often hands-on. Catcher James McCann is the most obvious example, playing Ausmus' old position, but other young Tigers are particularly loyal to Ausmus. If some of those players are to become part of the team's core, Ausmus could continue to guide their growth.

Ausmus, of course, can become a free-agent manager at season's end and gauge interest from clubs. There's a level of respect among people in the game for the job Ausmus has done with this team, particularly last year as the Tigers recovered from a slow start and fought back into contention with a lot of young players -- including three starters in their first or second seasons. Those three starters -- Michael Fulmer, Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd -- all open this season in the rotation for the first time.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for 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.