Winter Meetings interview with Brad Ausmus

Winter Meetings interview with Brad Ausmus

Q. This week, can you give us a little sense for how it's gone for you?

BRAD AUSMUS: You know, actually, it hasn't until today, today's been a busy day, but up until today it really hasn't been much different than any other Winter Meeting I've been to, maybe more involved in some of the discussions when it comes to the possible roster personnel. But it really hasn't been much different. It's the same conversations. You're always looking to improve the roster or fill gaps. And it's the same discussions we had as a special assistant in San Diego.

Q. How do you think your offense, knowing that it's changed in scope, what does it look like to you?

BRAD AUSMUS: It's a little bit different. You take Prince Fielder's bat out of there, that's a little bit of thump being removed from the lineup. But you add a little bit more of a dynamic player in Kinsler. There's many ways to skin a cat. The home run is not the only way to score runs in baseball. You can do it through the quote, unquote, small ball. You can do it through home runs, you can do it through a combination. It's a little different, but I still think a potent offense.

Q. When a team changes managers, it's usually because the team is in trouble. This is a unique circumstance. How good a situation is this to walk into as a first time manager?

BRAD AUSMUS: I don't think it can get much better it gets much better. Ironically I think you could say the same thing to Matt Williams or Bryan Price. Both those organizations changed managers well coming off good seasons. So that being said, and I don't want to speak for Matt or Bryan, but I'm guessing they feel fortunate like I do.

Q. The other day three managers got elected to the Hall of Fame. And they asked who (INAUDIBLE) do you remember who the first person ever said that was?

BRAD AUSMUS: It was probably a reporter (laughter). I don't remember who the first person who brought it up, but it's been mentioned. I think as I got older it probably was mentioned a little bit more frequently. And to be frank, Mike Matheny, Robin Ventura, these guys going in as managers without any experience probably didn't hurt me. A lot of similarities, especially Mike Matheny, we played against each other for years, both catchers, around the same age. Again, I'm fortunate to call myself a Major League manager, not having managed before, and even more fortunate to be doing that in a city and for a team that has been a darned good team the last few years.

Q. Without the past experience, what parts of the job do you think will come most naturally or easily to you, just based on your other experiences, and what other parts will take time to get better at, just being the job?

BRAD AUSMUS: Because I'm only three years removed from playing, I think communicating with players will probably be a little bit more natural for me. That's not to say, and I think every manager and every clubhouse experience has bumps in the road. But I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what kind of the makeup is of a player in today's baseball atmosphere. I do think catching will help me in terms of game preparation, in terms of in game my in game thought process, always thinking ahead, rather than reacting to the situation, you're thinking ahead, planning for that situation before it arises, which makes it much easier to make decisions, slows the game down mentally for a manager, as it did for a catcher.

Q. Are there any parts that where having experience in time will help you?

BRAD AUSMUS: No question. There's going to be a learning curve. I've never done it before. I've been able to watch some pretty good managers, Joe Torre, Phil Garner. Especially the second half of my career, I've watched some good managers and how they've dealt with situations and personnel. So I'm hoping to go into my databanks there and recall situations and apply it myself to the Tigers.

Q. Somewhat of a drastic change, with all you guys coming in in recent years without any experience. Why do you think that is? Is there an evolution going on here in this position?

BRAD AUSMUS: No. You know, there may be a combination of factors. But I think people in the baseball industry are starting to become I shouldn't say all of them, but there is a faction in the baseball industry who have come to the conclusion that, you know, maybe the communication with players is as important, and sometimes more important than the actual chalk board X's and O's. The length of the season makes this makes communication and kind of a clean atmosphere in the clubhouse much more important than, say, it would in an 18 game football season.

Q. You were involved in a lot of things as a catcher. And that was more numbers come in, the front office is more involved. Is that part of it, too? It's more of a shared experience?

BRAD AUSMUS: It is. That varies from organization to organization. Some organizations are a lot more numbers oriented and dictate a lot more down it trickles down a lot more to the on field personnel. I don't know that that will be the case in Detroit. That being said, there's no question I've learned through my catching years and game preparation that there are some numbers that you can that you heed. There's some numbers that can be very important and they're worth listening to. But there's also times where you have to understand that regardless of what the numbers say you're dealing with human beings. And the human factor, something has to be taken into account.

Q. Looking at it from the outside, you have a difficult act to follow. Do you look at it that way at all or is it irrelevant to what you're going to do?

BRAD AUSMUS: Jim was one of the best managers of his time. And we're talking about the time where there was some pretty darned good managers; three just got elected to the Hall of Fame. But I don't go in trying to be Jim Leyland. I'm not Jim Leyland. I wouldn't expect anybody to want me to be Jim Leyland. In talking to a few managers that I know here, Mike Scioscia, I was talking today about this, he said the most important thing is to be yourself. If I try to emulate Jim Leyland or be Jim Leyland, I think people would look at me as being kind of fake. It doesn't carry a lot of weight. Certainly wouldn't gain any respect. The most important thing is being myself. That being said, Jim has been fantastic with me, starting with the organizational meetings we had the day after I was announced as manager. I've talked to Jim a number of times, including in the last 72 hours or 48 to 72 hours. Every time I have a meeting Jim is basically sitting next to me or two seats over. I've talked to him a lot. He's been great in terms of he's been great in two ways, one, he'll give me any information I ask for or any information that he thinks I might need. And also makes it clear, I'm not the manager, you are. You need to do this. Just because I'm telling you I did it this way or I like this, doesn't mean you have to say that. He's been fantastic.

Q. Brad, what are the reports on Cabrera?

BRAD AUSMUS: All the reports are good. And they've been good since I've come on board. I've talked to our head trainer a number of times about it and he said he's getting his rehab in and as far as reports go, everything is going well. Knock on wood.

Q. As someone who recently played, he's on your team, obviously, but looking forward to him just as a baseball player, watching him?

BRAD AUSMUS: You know, he's unique in the sense that this is a superstar who really just loves the game and wants to win. You don't necessarily see that all the time in the game of baseball. I played with a guy like that in Jeff Bagwell, who was similar. He didn't have the smooth swing that Miggy has, but similar, plays the game the right way, wants to win, understands that he's part of the team. And Miggy, he is that mold. And breaking the mold a little bit, from an offensive standpoint.

Q. I know they're all Major Leaguers, they're not created equally, can you say a guy who is at that level of the game is still kind of amazing to think that that kind of talent?

BRAD AUSMUS: There's a lot of there's a handful of guys, I think, that, even baseball players, would pay to watch hit. And he is at the top of the list. There's not many that there's not many players that opposing teams would go out into the dugout during batting practice with the other team, Miggy is one of those guys if you were playing against the Tigers, you might sit in the dugout and watch him take batting practice, just to watch him hit. There's probably only a handful of those guys in the game.

Q. At this point, third base, is it going to be the rookie and see what happens?

BRAD AUSMUS: Well, he's going to get a shot over there. We're not going to hand anyone the job.

Q. Who else is in the mix?

BRAD AUSMUS: We have Lombard, he's over there, he can play third. And don't get me wrong, we want Castellanos to do well, and we hope he earns it, but he's got to play well.

Q. Those three managers we talked about, one of the things they have in common is they weren't a list of rules. You just coming out of really a playing capacity, treat men like men until they prove they can't handle it, seems the way they had that in common, there wasn't a thing to do, things not to do. Have you thought about how you'll address the team and say what I really expect from you?

BRAD AUSMUS: Definitely I've run that through my mind. But I think the most important thing is, one, like you just said, they're men, they're adults. And they need to be treated that way. And two, they're human beings. So as a manager you need to understand that these aren't assets, these are human beings, and when they struggle, they feel bad and sometimes they get upset. And sometimes they're going to get emotional. And I think you have to take into account that that's just part of being a human being, and not overreact to it.

Q. Do you take anything specific from the managers you played for?

BRAD AUSMUS: Absolutely. I take a lot of things from the managers I played for. I actually take a lot of things that the managers I played for I didn't agree with and I would apply the opposite. It goes in both directions, on the positive and negative side. I played for some I played for Joe Torre, talking about managers, and Joe was two things I took away is, one is temperament. He was always calm. He never had to yell. And, two, he was never out managed. He was always prepared. You didn't necessarily always agree with what he did, but you always understood why he did it. And that's part of baseball, you know, you're going to disagree at times. Joe was great. Phil Garner I enjoyed playing for. He was more fiery. Looking back I played for Larry Dierker in Houston for three years, and I was a young player. And he actually handed me the reins as a catcher. I was fourth year in big leagues, handed me the reins to control the running game, the first and thirds, I would call whether we threw to second or pump faked, and at the time I thought he was throwing a lot on my plate. I was only 28 years old. But looking back that taught me a lot about the game of baseball. Because I had to figure out when to pitch out, who we were supposed to throw to. It was fortunate for me. A lot of catchers don't get that option at 28, they don't get that opportunity. Larry Dierker has had an impact.

Q. It seems that more often people are being hired from the front office. Do you think that helps in any way, being on the field?

BRAD AUSMUS: I don't know if being in the front office helps with the managing aspect. It certainly helps with understanding the decision making process, that the idea that when you're putting a roster together, as much as the manager would just like to have nine All Stars out there every single day, there's other factors involved, whether it's the finances of the contract, the contract status, eligibility, you become accustomed to thinking about acquisition of players in a different light than you would if you were a player or just a manager, saying we want the best team we can have, I don't care if it costs $500 million. So there are economic parameters to stay in.

Q. Do you have preliminary thoughts on how many arms do you carry, sort of how those numbers

BRAD AUSMUS: I've thought about it. Certainly I've thought about it. But what I haven't done is look closely at the schedule, other than my wife telling me we'll be in San Diego where we live on the first road trip. I haven't looked at the off days, which comes into play early in the season. Yes, it's crossed my mind. But I've certainly not made any decisions on it.

Q. A lot of discussion this week in these meetings about home plate collisions, where do you come down on that? Should it change?

BRAD AUSMUS: You know, I do think it should change. With all the new information on concussions, it's probably the prudent thing to do. However, I am a little bit old school in the sense that I don't want to turn home plate into just another tag play. This is a run. This is the difference between possibly making the playoffs and not making the playoffs. It should matter a little bit more. In my mind I'd love to see something that if there's a collision, any hit above the shoulders, maybe the runner is out. I don't know how it's going to pan out. I know that would be very difficult to umpire, intent on something like that. But I do think something is going to happen. I'm a little bit more old school in the sense that this is home plate, we've got to protect it.

Q. Have you tried to convey some of your thoughts about it?

BRAD AUSMUS: Bruce Bochy is involved in that. And Bruce actually did call me a week and a half ago, and we talked about it on the phone.

Q. I asked Mike Scioscia, because he talked about being a little older, 40 years worth of mentality at what home plate is. The other part is you have 24 guys that try to get to the plate. Did you (INAUDIBLE) he thinks there's a little bit of de evolution in the mindset.

BRAD AUSMUS: I think in large part that has to do with some of the dollars that are spent, that and of course the health of the people the collisions at home plate. Certainly the Buster Posey collision with who was the runner Cousins I think that was kind of a tipping point, it seemed. The discussion really picked up after that. But again for me, those things are going to happen. The occasional knee injuries, those things are going to happen. In my mind let's talk about protecting the head, keep the concussions to a minimum or to zero, if possible.

Q. Have you seen Tanaka play?

BRAD AUSMUS: No.

Q. Have you heard anything about him?

BRAD AUSMUS: I heard he's good. But I haven't seen him. Q. Given Alex's history with getting beat up behind the plate, do you have any idea how you'd like to use him, whether you plan to be more careful using him behind the plate?

BRAD AUSMUS: I think we certainly have to monitor that. I'm also very cautious in the sense that I think for me catchers get overused sometimes, maybe not as much today as five years ago. But when I caught I know if I got over 135 games is when I started to feel tired, a ballpark figure. That can change, he's at 135, and you're at a pennant race in September, and he swings the bat, you're going to have to suck it up. I'm certainly aware of it. And certainly if something happens we would make an adjustment. But I'd love to see Alex have a great year and play 135 or 138 games, it would be perfect.

Q. From what you've heard about Bryan as a backup catcher, would you be confident in using him a little bit more?

BRAD AUSMUS: I don't want to get ahead of myself because I haven't seen him. I'd like to see him first. I've heard good things.

Q. You talk about the responsibility that Larry gave you early. Part of that process is also knowing what park you're in, how does it play, is this a home run hitters park, a small park, do you think about getting everybody in the mindset, that it depends on where you're playing and the pieces of it?

BRAD AUSMUS: As a catcher you did that all the time. You got a lead late and you generally would try to play away from the hitters or the ballpark's weakness. You play deeper. The parks vary and you take them into account, more in the latter half of the game, the last three innings of the game. Early on I'm a little more of the mindset that, hey, let's attack these hitters or let's attack these pitchers the way we always do, and see where the chips fall. And as we're deeper we'll make adjustments. If the ballpark or weather comes into play, et cetera.

Q. You said it was one of us who first mentioned to you the idea of managing. When do you remember that you actually started thinking, this is something I'd like to do?

BRAD AUSMUS: It was after I was removed not removed the latter part of my career, when I stopped playing on a regular basis. When I became more of a backup. I think that was in Houston, my last year in Houston. And certainly in LA, when I was backing up Russ Martin. I didn't really play much at all when I was backing up Russ Martin. And the great thing about being in LA and actually Garner was good with us when I was in Houston. I could go to Joe and ask him why he did something. Joe never looked at me like I was second guessing him. Joe would explain it to me. It helps when you have a guy like Joe and you're an older player, you kind of absorbed a lot of experiences, and you have a guy like Joe explain the logic behind one of his moves.

Q. Do you remember sometime where he told you an explanation you had never even dreamt of and then he said it, and it was like, wow, that makes perfect sense?

BRAD AUSMUS: No, because every time I went to Joe I knew it would make sense. It's a matter of listening to what he's saying. From watching Joe you learn that he never does anything that you can't explain. He never does anything where you just shake your head, like what is this guy doing?

Q. How did that process go, you would wouldn't go to him during the game?

BRAD AUSMUS: Sometimes I would. But usually it was the next day. But, yeah, Joe didn't mind if I I don't want to act like I did this on a daily basis, but Joe didn't mind. If there was a lull in the game, I could ask him. One of the questions I asked him, I remember, was what was it like facing Cy Young (laughter). He wouldn't answer; he laughed.

Q. What's your take on the report that the Tigers are planning to use more defensive shifts next season, I don't know how involved you've been?

BRAD AUSMUS: Where was that report?

Q. I probably shouldn't say, you'll laugh. It was a reputable source.

BRAD AUSMUS: We are going to to say we're going to shift or not going to shift, I think it's premature. But we will be looking at that information. Dave has been very candid about saying, hey, we're going to let you handle that stuff any way you want.

Q. What are your thoughts on what you've seen other teams doing?

BRAD AUSMUS: Well, I think sometimes there's something to it. A lot of times the game dictates whether you do or not, what the score is, especially. Where you are in the game in terms of innings. But there's sometimes I think it's overdone. My guess is that we will do it at times.

Q. Is it whether the pitcher throws where you want him to?

BRAD AUSMUS: Of course. Being able to execute the pitch is a huge piece of that puzzle. That has to be taken into account. If you have a young, hard throwing, slightly wild guy, it probably doesn't play in as well if you've got a guy that has some command. And the other thing is that whatever the approach is by the pitcher to the hitter, those pitches that you're trying to elicit outs with, that has to match up with the way the defense is going. There's not some synchronization between the defense and the pitcher.

Q. Defensive coordinator, is this something you thought about? Had you thought about this when I was playing, if I ever have a team that I would manage, I would have a defensive coordinator?

BRAD AUSMUS: For a few years. The title defensive coordinator was just recently applied. But the idea of having someone who could who's kind of I don't want to say overseer, because it sounds like he's in charge, when ultimately I'm the one to blame if it doesn't go right. But he can look at the pitching report, the infield report, the outfield report, and make sure we're all on the right page, so that if we execute the pitch we want to execute, we attack this hitter the way we want to attack him that we're going to elicit the outcome that is is in sync with where our fielders are standing. Now, it's an imperfect science, because you're not always going to throw the pitch right where you want to throw. But over the long haul.

Q. Have you had a chance to pat fellow catchers on the back little bit. When you talk to players that have played 10, 12 years sometimes, it's they don't have the recall, or they don't seem to have as many situations in their head because maybe playing leftfield didn't warrant that. Is that as simple an answer as to why you guys seem to be managers more often, that there's that thing going on all the time?

BRAD AUSMUS: I think that's part of it. Like we talked about earlier, as a catcher you're always planning ahead. In terms of the game situation, you're sitting there, you have to put a sign down, who's up, what are his strengths, weaknesses, who is on deck, what's the score, what inning, who is in the bullpen, who can pinch hilt. These things are things that cross your mind. The more experienced you become the more reflexive those decisions are. Yes, I think that's one reason it helps moving into the manager's seat. But the other two perspectives that a catcher has that a left fielder may not have, one, as a catcher a lot of times you're an everyday player. You play 125, 130 games, the catcher, you understand what it is to go through a slump. You understand what it is to strap on the gear when you're not feeling great or your arm is a little tender. And you play through some aches and pains. You understand that side of playing every day. And on the other hand you work with the pitchers on a daily basis and you kind of you get an understanding of what their mindset is. You understand that a starting pitcher, he has a bad outing, he's got to sit on his butt for five days to feel awful about this outing until he pitches again. You understand that when a guy comes out of the bullpen and it's 9 to 1, the game is out of hand that he's got to mop up some innings, and probably doesn't want to be there. You need to coax him to pitch well and help him through it. I think it gives you the perspective with the everyday player and the pitcher, as well.

Q. How do you guard against the clubhouse problem? This is going to be one thing that will come up because of the fact that even though you've been a player recently you haven't managed. And Leyland did not have one for eight years. Unusual, because they weren't really public. But that's a whole area of managing unto itself. How do you view that?

BRAD AUSMUS: The first I'll say is that if you've got players that get along, you're generally not going to have those issues. Now, even brothers get in fights sometimes. So I'm sure there will be the occasional bump in the road. The most important thing is the player, themselves. And although I can't speak from experience, everything I've heard about this clubhouse has been positive. Other than that the only thing I can say is I'll deal with it when it happens. I hope that my communication skills bear some fruit in this situation.

Q. You're obviously coming into a situation where the team is experienced, a lot of success the last few years. One of the issues last year was the bullpen, and obviously Joe is coming with you, how do you feel about that scenario?

BRAD AUSMUS: For me, I love having a closer that you know is your last four outs or whatever it might be. And I think mentally relieves a lot of other bullpen arms down there, because they know, hey, Joe is pitching tonight. If this is a close game, Joe is in there. So I think there's a little bit of a stress relief, that the guys know wherever they're going to slot in, and it may change day to day, slot in in front of Joe. I do think being a closer, I think being a closer, it's a different mindset. You're the last line of defense. There's nothing after you. If you blow the lead, chances are you've lost the game. So I think it's a special mindset and a short memory. And Joe's been doing it for a long time.

Q. Your playing career coincided with the (INAUDIBLE)?

BRAD AUSMUS: You know, I certainly used there were some statistical data, there was some statistical data that I used in preparing as a catcher. But really a lot of the metric stuff, with the exception of maybe the defensive, is more an analysis of players, more so than it is advanced scouting report of players. So I don't know how much it will go into the daily preparation playing against a team, other than the defensive side. I think defensively, yes. But I don't know it will be determined I've told Dave, we'll know what we want in Spring Training, and probably over the next four weeks it will be refined. We'll probably take things out and add something. We'll find some things work, and some things don't. We will use the information. I'm not going to say we'll use all of it. I don't want to get inundated staring at numbers and go cross eyed. A lot of the metric stuff is more an analysis base. Now, that being said, you could use some of that analysis to help make a player better, make him aware of something or have him improve in a particular area. But on a day to day preparation basis, I doubt that it will be used a ton.

Q. (INAUDIBLE)?

BRAD AUSMUS: We're still talking about that. Matt is going to wear a number of hats. He's going to help Omar, he's going to do preparation stuff, organization, defensive organization of the advanced scouting reports. And we're actually looking at him possibly being involved in the instant replay process. So he's going to have a number of hats.