By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – In his first season as a manager, Brad Ausmus hit the jackpot with the veteran clubhouse of the Detroit Tigers. The composition of the team will be different in his second season, but Ausmus expressed confidence the Tigers will still be a relatively low-maintenance bunch.
“This is an extremely solid group of human beings,” Ausmus said Thursday. “These guys, they really were a dream in terms of – for me. Very professional.”
Several fan favorites who departed this offseason were also strong leaders in the clubhouse. Outgoing outfielder Torii Hunter signed with the Minnesota Twins after the Tigers told him they would not be bringing him back, personable starting pitcher Max Scherzer left for the Washington Nationals in free agency, and longtime utility man Don Kelly signed a minor-league deal with the Miami Marlins.
How the absence of those individuals will impact the team chemistry is a question that has crossed the manager’s mind.
“I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it, but I’ve thought about it,” Ausmus said. “I’m wondering if it’s going to change. My gut says no, but you don’t know until you get them all into a room.”
Ausmus said he has a feeling the character of the clubhouse will remain the same because, though the Tigers lose their most vocal leader in Hunter, they have other veterans that will hold players to high standards.
“The way guys go about their business, like Victor [Martinez], Miggy [Cabrera], [Justin] Verlander, David Price – the way these guys go about their business, when you have veteran guys that go about their business in the manner those people do, Ian Kinsler being another one, it’s hard to get out of line if you’re a younger player,” Ausmus said. “It really is. We’re going to miss the leadership, no question.
“Torii was tremendous in the clubhouse,” Ausmus continued. “He was a tremendous asset for me because he could calm the guys down if he thought they were getting tense. He had a way about him that carried weight in the clubhouse, and we’ll miss that, and we’ll miss Donnie. Donnie, you never had to tell him to be ready; he was always ready. Max, great sense of humor, ran all our pools, the NCAA pool, so no question we’re going to miss those guys and those personalities in the clubhouse, but I’m not worried about there being a problem in the clubhouse.”
Ausmus does not know whether someone will fill the vocal leadership void that was created by Hunter’s departure, but he believes it will be OK even if no one does.
“Most of the guys we have are leaders, but they’re leaders by example,” Ausmus said. “Torii was the one guy who would talk. Now could somebody fill that role? Absolutely. Maybe someone does now that Torii’s gone, and that’d be great if that happens, but most of our guys are leaders by example.
“You don’t have to have that guy,” Ausmus added. “I’ve played on teams where there wasn’t that guy, but there was leaders by performance and by what they did, by their actions. They led by their actions.”