By: Will Burchfield
The Tigers’ search for a new manager is ongoing, and it’s unlikely to end especially soon.
But Phil Nevin is reportedly emerging as an early favorite.
Per Jon Heyman, Nevin, the former big-league slugger who managed for three-plus years in the Tigers’ farm system, is a “strong candidate” to replace Brad Ausmus.
The Tigers announced last week Ausmus will not return after this season. General manager Al Avila said the organization wanted a new voice to lead its rebuild.
“The conclusion is, let’s just take a brand-new road and open up to new things. We felt that it’s a new beginning, a fresh start and we’ll have fresh leadership as we move forward,” Avila said.
Nevin, 46, served as manager of the Double-A Erie Sea Wolves in 2010 and the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens from 2011 to 2013. He moved to the Diamondbacks’ organization in 2014 and nearly landed the job as the league skipper in 2016.
He’s currently the Giants’ third base coach.
Avila said the Tigers will be conducting an “extensive search” for their next manager.
“We’ll have a good list of names that we’ll whittle down little by little,” he said. “It will take some time.”
He added, “I don’t have a timeline as far as when it’s all going to be said and done because we want to be thorough and we want to make sure that we get the person that we really want.”
When the Tigers hired Ausmus he had no managerial experience, at any level. That won’t be the case with Ausmus’ replacement.
“I would say that experience comes in different ways,” said Avila. “It could be an experienced manager that’s already managed in the big leagues, but it could also be an experienced manager that has managed in the minor leagues or an experienced guy that has worked in a major-league dugout as a coach.
“I would say the manager doesn’t have to have managerial experience at the major-league level, but he certainly has to have managerial experience, in my opinion, in the minor leagues or coaching experience in the major leagues.”
Nevin, who enjoyed a 12-year career as a player, certainly checks those boxes.
Avila said the Tigers will also consider in-house candidates, such as hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and first base coach Omar Vizquel.
“Out of the coaching staff, the guys that want to be considered will be considered and I will interview any of those guys. I think there are guys that are obviously qualified, otherwise I would not (interview them). Lloyd certainly is qualified. He’s managed several times and he’s been here,” said Avila.
But it seems more likely the Tigers make an external hire considering their desire for a “fresh start.” Asked if a younger manager is a better fit for a rebuild, Avila said, “That’s a good assumption.”
“I know one thing,” he added. “I would like to get a guy that has the energy to get through the process because it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a long process, a hard process, a trying, grinding process, and you want somebody that has the kind of energy that can get through that.”
Avila said he isn’t worried that the Tigers’ grim short-term future will turn the best candidates away. He already has his sales pitch lined out.
“I’m trying to sell them on opportunity, because, really, you’re going to be the manager of a team that’s in full rebuild mode with all the opportunity in the world in front of you,” said Avila. “You’re going to be able to go from the bottom to the top, as opposed to taking something over that’s just already there.
“Whoever calls or has interest in this position comes in fully aware, wide-eyed, of what he’s walking into. In saying that, while it’s a very difficult process, it’s also going to be a tremendous opportunity for a person to come in and have success in a full turnaround.”