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December 6, 2016
National Harbor, Maryland
Q. Going back to yesterday, you guys go into the season with J.D. and the same core group of guys, would you consider hitting J.D. second?
BRAD AUSMUS: I certainly wouldn't just throw it out of hand. I would consider it. Victor was a pretty good hitter last year, though. I know he went through a stretch, end of August, September, where he struggled, but he's still a pretty good hitter and he's still a left-handed hitter -- it's tough to protect Miguel, but if Victor is swinging the bat well, I think because of his ability to switch-hit, it makes him the best option.
Q. Looking at the rest of the batting order, how do you kind of look at -- you had Cam who has hitting second there the bulk of the time. What do you see at that second spot or what do you think you potentially might do there?
BRAD AUSMUS: We have to see how it develops and see what happens at center field now that Cam is gone. I think, generally speaking, the lineup, assuming we have the same guys, other than Cam, it's going to look pretty similar. There's not a ton of stuff you can do with a lineup. There's not a ton of flexibility with it. We have a lot of guys that play on a regular basis. So, even in terms of platooning or playing the nonstarters, just doesn't happen very much with our lineup.
Q. Could be potentially a spot with whoever is playing center field?
BRAD AUSMUS: I do like can him in the leadoff spot. He's thrived there. I like the fact that he's an immediate power threat to start the game. I do think it's a good spot for him. I don't think at this point I would mess with that.
Q. When you were watching the post-season, one of the big narratives was the use of the bullpen. Is any of that relevant to the regular season?
BRAD AUSMUS: It would be tough. First of all, a lot was made of Andrew Miller and how he was used multiple innings, and obviously Tito did an outstanding job with him. The one thing, people often look at that and say, well, maybe that's going to be going forward, the style of reliever you want with a type of bullpen you want to build around.
Well, the problem with that is that you've got to find an Andrew Miller, and they don't grow on trees. You know, Tito did a great job with his bullpen, but if you can find me another Andrew Miller, let me know, we'll stick him in our bullpen and see if it works. It's not that simple.
Q. Could he do that, be Andrew Miller for six months --
BRAD AUSMUS: I don't know that you could throw that many innings on a regular basis. The playoffs are going to change the way a bullpen is used, even the way starters are used. Starters are often taken out earlier, as a result if you have a stronger bullpen. Just doesn't happen in a regular season because you get to August and the bullpen would be shot.
Q. Relative to that, you're going to go into the season presumably with three or four young starters, three young starters for sure in your rotation. And innings will still be an issue for them, you still can't throw 200 innings; does that change your bullpen in terms of more long guys?
BRAD AUSMUS: I think with the young guys, you have to watch innings. I'm not overly concerned about innings. You can't get to 200 -- I wouldn't say go over it, but you probably could get to it. With young pitchers, they are going to have days where they are going to have some extreme lows, and that's where you're going to need the bullpen to pick up innings. When you have three of them potentially in the rotation, now that's 60 percent of your rotation, there's going to be some lows that the bullpen is going to have to pick up some extra innings.
Q. A lot can happen between now and Spring Training, but if things stay the way they are, how would you look at roles for Sanchez and Pelfrey going into camp? Do you still see them as starters or relief pieces?
BRAD AUSMUS: I think initially, we probably -- at least one of them would initially certainly be preparing as a starter. Possibly both, depending on how things shake down. But to be honest with you, I called Dubee the other day on that particular topic, and we discussed it but we didn't made a final decision.
Q. What's your level of concern with Zimmermann?
BRAD AUSMUS: I'm not concerned about it. I'm just hoping it gets corrected. He had the injection a few weeks ago; I talked to him. He said he felt good. Hopefully the second one is planned. It's not that there was an issue, it was planned as part of therapy. He gets that in January.
Really all's we can do is kind of hold our breath and get to Spring Training and hope it doesn't flare up again, because we need him. We missed him for about half the season last year, and he was going to be our No. 2.
Q. With the different organizational philosophy, reducing payroll, do you see your roster -- do you think it will be significantly different when you get to Spring Training? Will you have a sense of that?
BRAD AUSMUS: I don't think it will be. I think fiscally speaking, most people understand what Al is talking about. You don't want to continue to spend over your means. The Ilitches and the Tigers have been for a decade now one of the better teams in baseball. I think they want to continue it. It's going to be a little different methodology in terms of how do you it.
But going from the end of 2016 to the start of Spring Training 2017, I don't think there's going to be a ton of change. But it's so much easier to talk about trading people and a lot to actually trade them; especially when you're talking about guys that have some sizable contracts. Some of them have no trade clauses. Quite frankly, even talking about being more responsible fiscally, we don't want to trade. We like them, especially some of the names mentioned earlier in the season, Miguel, Justin, I don't want those guys traded. Are you kidding me? That's the last thing I want. I just think it's easy to talk about and harder to do.
Q. What do you think of your chances in the division, especially in light of the Chris Sale trade?
BRAD AUSMUS: We saw our fair share of Chris Sale, there's no question about that. And I think obviously this is great for the White Sox pitching staff, but I don't know the players they got back.
But the division, it's still the Indians on top, and they have a very good team, and the vast majority is coming back. Right now they are the cream of the Central Division, and it's up to us to catch them.
Q. So as it stands right now, the young pitchers, barring any injuries or whatnot, Verlander, Fulmer, Zimmermann, are those the only guys set in stone in the rotation?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah, I would say. There's no question I felt Boyd and Norris pitched well, especially in the pennant race atmosphere going down the stretch, and that doesn't hurt them.
But if you would have asked me last year -- maybe you did ask me and I refused to answer, but if I did answer last year, I would have said Norris in Spring Training. Norris gets hurt, all of sudden it changes everything. He ends up being down in the Minor Leagues for half the season.
But I do think Daniel and Matt Boyd both pitched very well. I thought they made progress, and I think they both have a chance to be good.
BRAD AUSMUS: For Norris? Yeah, I agree Rich Dubee did a good job with him of getting him to slow down, and a lot of it is in his head. He so badly wants to get the ball and get the guy out. I think what Rich did with him, especially on the side sessions, is kind of break it down step-by-step, get on the rubber, get your sign, get your set, deliver the pitch. Pick your target. Try and impress on him you can't pitch before you've done these other things.
I think Daniel wants to be successful and get guys out. And, quite frankly, he wants to win a World Series, right this second.
He's done a nice job of slowing it down and taking it one pitch at a time. It's the old adage. I thought that was the difference, allowed him to concentrate, make better pitches.
Q. What do you think Lloyd McClendon will bring to the coaching staff?
BRAD AUSMUS: The main thing about Mac, and I actually -- my gut told me that I didn't think Wally would come back again. In the back of my mind, Mac was the guy, because he was a rapport with some of the veterans. He's been around some of these hitters. He has the respect, and I like that, with our veteran core having someone of that type of stature as the hitting coach.
And then (indiscernible) is the other of the spectrum. He's seen a lot of our young guys. He's been in Toledo for 15 years or so and has seen a lot of these guys at some point that are younger and on our team and worked with them. I thought it was a good combination.
Q. What's your memories about Beltran when he was in Houston previously and especially that run he had in the playoffs?
BRAD AUSMUS: He was possibly the most talented player I ever played with, just in terms of speed, power, arm strength. He was a five-tool guy, really.
I know certainly the playoff run for him was unbelievable, and might have been really the turning point in his career, quite frankly.
I remember being very disappointed that off-season, we ended up losing him to the Mets because we were trying to sign him. But the thing, believe it or not, that stood out about him, this is kind of arbitrary: I've never seen somebody go first and third or first to home, second to home, as fast as he does, and I had never seen anyone slide as hard as he does into a base.
Now he's ten years older, so it's not the same, but that's what I remember about him is just how fast and how hard he went into bases.
Q. What kind of strides are you expecting out of Nick this year?
BRAD AUSMUS: Well, he made huge strides this year. He just needs to keep trending in that direction. He made huge strides offensively, especially from a perspective of not chasing pitches out of the zone. He was much better about not chasing breaking balls out of the zone and defensively he made changes.
He just needs to continue that trajectory, quite frankly.
Q. Is he full go in off-season rehab?
BRAD AUSMUS: I told him last week -- he feels nothing in his hand. He's fine.
Q. Would you consider hitting second --
BRAD AUSMUS: Ideally I want somebody that's going to be on base, just because of the guys that are coming up behind him. I've thought about it in the past and kind of decided against it. Who knows.
Q. Shane Greene, because he continually had little things going wrong with his arm, even though he pitched a couple good weeks, did anything happen with him in terms of off-season medicals?
BRAD AUSMUS: I talked to him again. He had that finger thing, remember. And he said it's progressing. It still gets -- he gets kind of a cold sensation once in a while but he says it's getting less and less frequent. I think he's going to be in the bullpen.
Q. Do you think that's his niche?
BRAD AUSMUS: I do. He struggled at times but he also showed flashes are being very good. I think if he's there, he's there all year, he's comfortable with it; I know he likes it. He prefers it. I'm expecting that to be kind of the foundation for an improved 2017.
Q. We heard from Al yesterday, but do you agree with him, if this team was kept together, that this is a team that can compete next year?
BRAD AUSMUS: Oh, yeah. To me there's no doubt. We didn't have Zimmermann for half the year. J.D. and Nick missed roughly six weeks. We had three rookies in the rotation for the last 45 days or so. And we were still going into Sunday, the last team standing that didn't make the post-season.
Q. How do you see the internal candidates at center field? Al said that he would prefer in a perfect world that JaCoby started in Triple-A. Do you concur with that?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah, I think that's the smart thing for JaCoby. I think he could use a little more polishing. He did well in the Arizona Fall League. Saw him in a couple games. I think in a perfect world, he could use a little more time. And really, at this point, it's wide open. We have some candidates in-house, but it wouldn't shock me if they somehow got out of house at some point.
Q. What do you think Anthony needs to do, given the situation with Lloyd, and now he's the hitting coach?
BRAD AUSMUS: That's water under the bridge. Those kind of things happen in baseball where there are certain disagreements or certain people don't even get along. Most of the time, media doesn't know about it. Guys just don't get along and they don't talk to each other. So that does happen.
I don't think that would be the case here. I think Mac and Gose will be fine together. I think they will work together fine. I don't think there will be any issues. I know Mac will do everything he can to try to get the most out of him.
I've always liked Anthony. He works his tail off, he really does, almost to a fault at times. I think if he can learn to back off and let the game come to him a little bit with his athleticism, he can be a Big League everyday center fielder.
Last year, it's over. It's water under the bridge.
Q. Was it mostly mental, his struggles, or was it mechanical, the swing?
BRAD AUSMUS: It starts as one. It usually starts as a mechanical problem. When it becomes that difficult, it ends up being a mental problem.
Q. Is he coming in with the same kind of, I don't know if it's a probationary thing that Rondon had; is it saying, you have to prove to us this is where you want to be and you're ready to do what needs to be done?
BRAD AUSMUS: Somewhat, yeah. Absolutely.
Q. Speaking of Rondon, what do you think of the way he performed?
BRAD AUSMUS: He did a nice job. After the end of 2015, he did a nice job of coming in and working hard. Kind of reestablished himself as a very able back-end bullpen-type pitcher, but he's got to keep doing it. You can't just do it for two thirds of a season at a Major League level. You think you've proved to everyone that you are what you are supposed to be, and now you have to keep doing it.
He has to keep doing the same thing from day one next year. He needs to come in in shape and stay in shape like he did last year, and the bottom line is performance in the game. He's going to have to pitch.
BRAD AUSMUS: K-Rod is our closer.
Q. In the future.
BRAD AUSMUS: I think he's got the ability to do it. There's a lot of guys with ability. So there's more than -- people love the radar gun. You show me a guy that throws a hundred, I can show you a hitter that can hit it. There are other things that go into it. You have to have the ability to control your emotions on the mound, especially in a save situations. You have to have an off-speed pitch, a swing-and-miss pitch. You can't be afraid to make a mistake even though the game is on the line.
Q. If he pitches for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, does that make things difficult for you, having him away for camp, or can it be a good motivation for him to come to camp?
BRAD AUSMUS: I think it's probably good for him to be around some of those guys. Although it seems like half their team is Detroit Tigers. But that doesn't bother me. You know, especially a one-inning relief pitcher like him, in terms of work, he'll be fine. I'm not concerned about that.
Q. K-Rod, he'll have his visa worked out by then anyways.
BRAD AUSMUS: K-Rod, I don't know what the situation is going to be with his visa, but he'll have to if he's going to play with Venezuela.
I talked to Omar, and my understanding is that he's going to, and I don't know if that's been finalized. It's my understanding he is, and he was planning on having him there, but I don't know if it's etched in stone or not.
Q. In talking with Al, what areas would you like to see the team improve on?
BRAD AUSMUS: You know what, honestly, the one thing I would like to see, I would like to see us strike out less. I think certain guys that produce runs, drive in runs, you live with strikeouts, and that happens. But I think we've got some other guys that can strike out guys, and that will be a topic of discussion early on in camp.
Q. Is that like an approach thing?
BRAD AUSMUS: Can be. I've already talked to Mac about it, and he's on board. Like I said, it will be -- we'll talk about it early on, probably the first day or two of Spring Training. Miguel Cabrera doesn't strikeout that much. He has the ability to shorten up and go the other way with two strikes, especially with runners in scoring position. For me, other guys should be looking at that. Here is a guy that hits 35 homers, drives in a hundred and he still has the ability to shorten.
I think sometimes we've got so caught up, analytics helps the game tremendously and gives you insight into the game and makes the team better. Now you're getting that trickle-up effect, kids that have been reading about power and how important doubles and homers are analytically, well, they swing for the fences, and I think that's why there are more strikeouts.
There is something to be said, at times, especially specific types of players, put the ball in play and put pressure on the defense.
Q. Baserunning was still an issue --
BRAD AUSMUS: You say it was an issue, but people have written that it was an issue all the time. They think that other teams don't make outs on the bases. We could be better, but we're not a fast team. We're not going to be running around the bases like a carousel. We have a lot of guys that are more base-to-base guys, and we have other guys that have the ability to run a little bit but we are not a fast team.
Speed makes up for a lot of baserunning mistakes, and what happens is when you've got speed and you make a mistake, you send up being safe, but when you don't have speed and you make mistakes, you end up being out. We don't have speed. So you try. We had Kirk Gibson in camp last year and we're planning on having him back again next year, emphasizing base runs and taking short routes; even if you're not a fast runner, you can try to take turns and get there quicker. But we are not going to turn Victor Martinez into Jose Altuve. That's just not happening.
Q. Were you happy with the way your defensive position was, because in terms of zone ratings, they were really horrible. Do you feel like you did a good job positioning?
BRAD AUSMUS: We haven't looked at it. Seemed like we shifted a little bit less, and part of that was a product of the teams we play in our division. Part of it was a product of the personnel you put out there.
We haven't looked at it yet, but I'm sure, especially with the growing analytical department, it will be.
Q. Specifically, outfield defense positions?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah, and, again, similar to baserunning in the outfield, if you have speed, it makes up for things. And when you have a large outfield, like we do, from right center to left field line, it makes up for even more.
Q. Along those lines, the metrics said J.D. Martinez was above average last year, but this year was the worst of any right fielder. How much do you think that's reality, and, also, do you think his injury had anything to do with it?
BRAD AUSMUS: No, I don't think it was the injury. I remember on a flight back towards the end of the season, J.D. and I were talking about that a little bit, and he knows. Quite frankly, I just think it was an off year for him defensively. I don't want to chalk it up to any more than that. But certainly wasn't lack of effort. He's always out there taking fly balls in BP and he cares about his defense and he's a good thrower, accurate thrower.
I just think it was down year. Especially early, he seemed to have some guffaws. I expect him to return to 2015 Martinez.
Q. A question about Otani, could you evaluate him?
BRAD AUSMUS: I don't really know anything about him other than he can hit, he's got big power and he can pitch. But I actually have never seen even video of him. From what it sounds like, he's not going to be here for a couple more years. But I've heard he's a tremendous, tremendous athlete.
Q. Do you think it's possible to do a two-way player in the Major Leagues?
BRAD AUSMUS: It's possible in the National League because the pitcher has to hit. He might be able to swing it. It might be difficult. I guess he could DH and pitch every fifth day. You don't see it very often, but Babe Ruth did it.
BRAD AUSMUS: The one thing I was most impressed with Iggy this year is he took a little bit of the glitz out of his game. He became a little more workmanlike at shortstop. Got his feet set, made good throws, and he was a better shortstop as a result. He kind of looks at himself as an entertainer, and he is, and he's got tremendous hands and feet, but there's that line when we talked to him about it, there's that line of making a good play look easy, and not making the easy play look difficult.
I thought he did an excellent job this year of kind of changing his approach defensively and just becoming more workmanlike.
Q. Is it Omar or Kinsler or a combination of both of them with that?
BRAD AUSMUS: I know Kinsler talked to him and I know Miggy has talked to him, but Omar, Al and I had a discussion with him.
Q. How much do you think the ankle injury at the beginning of the season hampered McCann, and what did you see out of him in his second year?
BRAD AUSMUS: It's tough for me to say. I didn't see any indication that the ankle is bothering him, but that doesn't mean it didn't. I can't really answer that part of it. I think the most valuable thing he got out of 2015 is what he learned both behind the plate and as a hitter. I still think he's going to be an outstanding catcher for a long time. But it's not easy being a Big League catcher on a team that's expected to win, and then trying to learn the league and how to call a league all at the same time.
The year of experience I think will be invaluable to him both behind and beside the plate.
Q. What kind of hitter do you think he'll be?
BRAD AUSMUS: I've said before, I think he'll hit 15 to 20 homers. I'd like to see he's a guy -- and, again, I've talked to him about this. I'd like to see him come down in strikeouts, especially hitting towards the bottom of the lineup and shorten up and put the ball in play. At times he did it. I think he took the discussion to heart. I think it's something that probably he may have the most dramatic change. I think you'll see him cut down on his strikeouts this year, and I still think he'll be a good offensive catcher.
Q. You are out of options for potential bench guys, and in light of that, was there a discussion about nontendering Romine, or was he just a no-brainer because of his versatility?
BRAD AUSMUS: I'm not going to get into our discussions. There's no question his versatility is he can play anywhere, including pitch, was a huge factor.
Q. Will pitch framing be a point of emphasis with McCann?
BRAD AUSMUS: It was. We worked on it with McCann and all the catchers in Spring Training, but Mac actually did get a little bit better from the previous year, and he takes a lot of pride in it. He understands how valuable it is. It will continue going forward.
Q. And there was talk with Verlander talking to him about potentially pitching in the WBC. Did you talk with Verlander?
BRAD AUSMUS: I haven't talked to Ver about that. My understanding is, I don't think he is at this point. But I have not talked to Ver. Really Major League Baseball doesn't want the organizations interfering with players' decisions to play in the WBC. If they want to play, I understand that. And if they don't want to play, I understand that side of the argument, as well. I don't broach it. The starters are the guys you worry more about from preparation standpoint and injury standpoint.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports