By: Will Burchfield
Brad Ausmus wasted no time talking to Nicholas Castellanos after his unseemly flare-up in the dugout on Wednesday night.
Castellanos, who was upset after being lifted in the 8th inning of the Tigers’ 4-0 win in favor of pinch-runner/defensive replacement Andrew Romine, hurled his batting helmet into the helmet rack only to watch it ricochet into Miguel Cabrera’s face.
Before Ausmus addressed the media, he addressed Castellanos.
“I explained to him that Romine might be our best base runner. Nick’s not the type of guy that has to be pinch run for, but if I’m going to replace him defensively and the guy I’m using to replace him defensively is even a marginally better base runner, I might as well take advantage of it,” Ausmus said.
The skipper elaborated on the matter on the Jamie and Stoney Show on 97.1 The Ticket.
“I just talked to him about understanding (the rationale) first of all, and the frustration involved in it. Players aren’t always going to be happy with things that happen or decisions that managers make, but they gotta be professional about it. That’s the only thing that was discussed,” Ausmus said. “I’ve been there, I’ve been that guy who’s upset with myself as a player or upset with something that happened on the field.”
“Nick’s a competitor, he wants to be in the game,” Ausmus added. “He takes a lot of pride in all aspects of his game, including base running.”
To an extent, Ausmus appreciates Castellanos’ fiery nature.
“I don’t want him to be happy about being taken out of the game. I don’t want pitchers to be happy about being taken out of a game, I don’t want people to be happy about being pinch hit for. But it’s also part of the game,” Ausmus said.
As a former player, the skipper can relate.
“I was mad at times when I got pinch hit for. They’re competitors, you don’t want them to be complacent and be like, ‘Oh well, ho hum, he pinch hit for me.’ You should want the bat in your hands and the ball in your hand,” said Ausmus.
As the manager pointed out on Wednesday night, players throw their helmets all the time. It’s not that big of a deal.
“I remember when I played for the Tigers, actually, I was angry about something I did and slammed my bat and the bat broke off and the end hit Juan Gonzalez. So I’m sure Nick felt horrible, like I did in the incident with Juan Gonzalez,” Ausmus said. “But like you said to me, (the media) likes to blow things up. So throwing a helmet is all of a sudden a big deal even though it probably happens every single game in major league baseball.”
Ausmus admitted that part of Castellanos’ frustration on Wednesday night may have stemmed from his poor luck this season. Despite ranking second in the majors in hard-contact rate (49 percent of batted balls), the Tigers’ third baseman is hitting just .220 with a .674 OPS.
“As far as the results he’s getting at the plate, you can make the argument he’s hit more balls hard in baseball than any other hitter and gotten less results for it. And that can be frustrating because you feel like you’re doing everything right and you’re getting no reward,” said Ausmus. “Unfortunately for him you gotta find a way to get through it. You can’t start tinkering with the mechanics of your swing just because you’re not getting the results, because you are doing everything right. It can be very frustrating, it can be very trying.”
Defensively, though, Castellanos has recently been much better. He made a great pick at third to start a 5-4-3 double play on Wednesday night, the continuation of an ongoing turnaround with his glove.
“The fielding has been much better. He had a little stretch where he scuffled in the field, but really more recently he’s returned to the form that we saw in spring training where he’s looking good again at third base. Matter of fact, I struggled whether to defend for him or not (on Wednesday). I feel like he’s made those strides back to where he was and I may end up not defending for him as much if he continues to do this,” Ausmus said.
The manager has typically subbed Romine in for Castellanos when the Tigers are protecting a close lead in the ninth inning.
As far as Wednesday’s incident in the dugout, Ausmus is more than ready to turn the page.
“It’s not gonna be an issue, I can promise you that,” he said.