By: Will Burchfield
Jim Leyland knows what it takes to win games as an MLB manager and he believes his successor’s got it.
“I think that he has a chance to be one of the outstanding managers, I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Leyland said of Brad Ausmus on Wednesday, in an interview with 97.1 The Ticket. “I think he’s an outstanding manager already.”
Ausmus, beginning his fourth season as the Tigers skipper since taking over for Leyland in 2014, has a career record of 251-234. Opinions vary as to how much a manager really matters, how much he influences his team’s game-by-game results, but Leyland believes Ausmus is a rising asset for the Tigers.
“He’s just gotten more comfortable each year. He’s very thorough, he leaves no stones unturned, he’s got a good rapport with the players. I think he’s come leaps and bounds, and I mean that sincerely,” Leyland said. “I’m really impressed with him.”
[RELATED: Avila Likens Ausmus To Joe Torre]
One area in which Ausmus has drawn criticism as a manager is his use of the bullpen. Some fans feel he has a tendency to call on the wrong relievers at the wrong times. (We should pause here to point out that he hasn’t exactly been working with the 1998 Yankees.) But Leyland contends just the opposite.
“I think he’s done a tremendous job of adjusting to the bullpen and last year I thought he did a much better job. It takes a little time and I think that he’s really settled in,” Leyland said.
Leyland, who currently serves as a special assistant to the Tigers, won’t be at the team’s home opener on Friday. He would like to be, he said, but feels it’s important to give Ausmus his space.
“To be honest, I stay away now. That’s Brad’s show now and they’ve got a good team,” said Leyland.
Instead, Leyland will be reconnecting with his roots in Pittsburgh, where he managed the Pirates from 1986 to 1996.
“I just think it’s good for me to stay away from Detroit right now. I mean, it’s Brad’s show and it’s just not a place for me. I’ll be up there some, but I’m actually going to go to the Pirates home opener with some of the guys that played for me. It’s the best of both worlds,” he said.
These days, Leyland is just as happy to watch the Tigers from afar, knowing Ausmus is the right man to lead the team forward.
“He’s very confident, very professional and I truly believe the Tigers are really in good hands,” Leyland said.