DETROIT - The first question of the Detroit Tigers’ off-season has been answered: Manager Brad Ausmus will be back.
The team has exercised Ausmus’ fourth-year contract option, marking the second consecutive season that general manager Al Avila has stuck with Ausmus.
The Tigers made an official announcement this afternoon.
"Brad was instrumental in leading the team through adversity and with the development of our younger players, particularly the young starting pitchers," Avila said in a released statement. "The team improved from last season, and under the leadership of Brad and his coaching staff, the ballclub kept fighting, and remained in contention for the postseason. Moving forward we want to build off that progress."
Ausmus, Avila and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Free Press.
In Ausmus' third season, the Tigers finished 86-75 and 2 1/2 games short of an American League wild-card spot, missing the postseason for a second consecutive year. The team finished in last place last season. In 2014, it won the AL Central before getting swept by the Baltimore Orioles in an AL Division Series.
Asked after the Tigers’ final game of the season Sunday whether he would like a chance to lead the team again in 2017, Ausmus said: “Yeah. It’s a team that’s got a chance to win that’s got some good young pitching now. You know, it’s got a bona fide ace at the top and it’s got some good young pitching that will, theoretically, just grow and get better.”
When announcing late last season that Ausmus would return for 2016, Avila lauded his impact on the young players in the organization. This season, youngsters such as right-handed pitcher Michael Fulmer, lefties Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris and third baseman Nick Castellanos made strides. And from most accounts, Ausmus improved in his role, kept the clubhouse in check and is diligent in his preparation.
The team battled big injury after big injury and underperformance from its starting rotation.
Next season, the Tigers have the bulk of their veteran core under contract but may be forced to trim payroll in order to avoid the luxury tax for a second straight year, which would be a 30% penalty. If their young pitchers continue to develop, they look to have a team capable of competing for a postseason spot.
Ausmus, 47, is 250-234 in three seasons. The Tigers have missed the postseason in two of them.
After an 18-year playing career with the San Diego Padres, Houston Astros, Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers, Ausmus will fulfill the length of his first managerial contract. He took over from Jim Leyland following the 2013 season.
(2016 © Detroit Free Press)