Brad Ausmus

Brad Ausmus did not stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. He didn’t have to.

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LAKELAND, FLORIDA — Brad Ausmus opened his office to the media at 8:45. It was impeccably neat and organized and during his meeting he spoke accurately and incisively about various medical subjects. Based on the comments of regular Tigers writers, this is juuuuuust a bit different than the Jim Leyland years.

The medical talk came in response to questions about shortstop Jose Iglesias, who will be held out of action for the next week due to a recurrence of some issues with his shin. Ausmus referred to it as a “stress reaction” that, rather than being attributable to some incident on the field, “may be attributable to a genetic issue.” When asked where Iglesias felt pain, Ausmus said he “felt it in his tibia.” When he said “tibia” he gave a shrug and sheepish kind of look as if he had guessed the proper name of the bone, and that caused the assembled reporters to laugh, but you could tell Ausmus knew the right name of the bone. The shrug reminded me of when the smartest guy in the room is trying not to come off as the smartest guy in the room. And Ausmus is very clearly the smartest guy in most rooms he enters.

After the anatomical term came up a reporter jokingly asked Dr. Ausmus if Iglesias’ “superior vena cava” is doing OK.

“Well, I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night  . . .” More laughs. But it seemed to me more of the fine balance a cerebral and athletic-minded person has likely had to manage his whole life. It’s fascinating to see.

The cerebral side came out after some discussion of Bruce Rondon, the Tigers reliever who can throw 100 miles per hour. Ausmus was asked if it’s strange to him that so many pitchers routinely hit the high 90s and even higher on the radar gun these days, and why he thinks that is. If you have that conversation in a bar people will talk about steroids. If you have that conversation with sports fans or even some people in the game, you’ll hear generalizations about kids just being bigger and stronger now. Ausmus, even though he was clearly being asked to offer some pithy generalization about hard-throwers, offered a much longer, thoughtful take.

“The money changed,” Ausmus said. Larger signing bonuses and arbitration awards for hard-throwers with high strikeout totals, even if it doesn’t always translate to great pitching results. The money leads to “greater specialization at younger an younger ages,” with kids focusing on just pitching when they’re younger. And prospects playing in more competitive, sophisticated youth and travel leagues. “And there is just natural evolution at play,” Ausmus added. Noting that baseball is no different than a lot of sports where the records and metrics are better and more impressive now than they used to be.

Ausmus’ manner is free and easy and he’s quick with a joke, but he’s not hilarious the way Jim Leyland often is. And he doesn’t give a flip answer to anything. Even if it seems like he’s talking off the top of his head, you get the impression that he has already considered everything you might ask. Any subject that might come up. It’s an organized brain. It’s evident in his speaking and manner.

It’s even evident by looking at his desk. Every notepad, pen, stapler, and electronic device was neatly and squarely placed on his desk. More neatly than I’ve ever seen on anyone’s desk. It’s like those guys who arrange the place settings with rulers for royal dinners arranged his desk. And you can tell he likes it that way. During his interview, he sat in a side chair and let one of the veteran Tigers reporters sit in his desk chair, partially as a joke, partially out of actual respect. At one point the reporter knocked over his empty McDonald’s coffee cup on Ausmus’ desk calendar. It made no mess, not even a drop, and the reporter quickly picked it up and resumed his question.

Unless, as I was, you were looking right at Ausmus to see his reaction, you may not have noticed that, just for a moment, he dropped his free-and-easy demeanor. That something was interrupted in the intellectual order of his universe for a second. He focused on the cup and the calendar and was briefly concerned that chaos had entered his office. As soon as it was clear that there was no disaster, he snapped back to attention to matters at hand. Control and order had once again been restored.

If you can’t tell, I am fascinated by this guy. There aren’t many beasts like him in managerial ranks. I’m going to be watching him closely.

Report: Tim Lincecum is not ready for retirement

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 29:  Tim Lincecum #55 of the Los Angeles Angels during the second inning of the game against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 29, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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Free agent right-hander Tim Lincecum isn’t ready to hang up his cleats just yet. At least, that’s the word from Lincecum’s agent, Rick Thurman, who says the 32-year-old is still “throwing and getting ready for the season” (via Andrew Baggarly of the San Jose Mercury News).

Lincecum may not be ready to enter retirement, but another quote from Thurman suggests that he’ll be picky about where he pitches next. He doesn’t appear open to pitching overseas, and despite not having a contract for 2017 (or even any serious suitors), the right-hander is set on pitching in the big leagues this year. Whether or not he’s willing to take a bullpen role to do so remains to be seen.

While Baggarly predicts some interest in the veteran righty, there’s not much in Lincecum’s recent history to inspire faith in him as a starter, or even a reliever. He picked up a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Angels following his hip surgery in 2015, and went 2-6 in 2016 with a 9.16 ERA, 5.4 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings. At this point, a minor league contract seems like the surest path back to major league success, though he’s unlikely to find an open spot on the Giants’ or Angels’ rosters anytime soon.

Report: Jeff Manship signs with NC Dinos

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Jeff Manship #53 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Free agent right-hander Jeff Manship has reportedly signed with the NC Dinos of the Korea Baseball Organization, according to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The righty was non-tendered by the Indians in December.

Manship, 32, completed his second season with Cleveland in 2016. He delivered a 3.12 ERA, 4.6 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 rate over 43 1/3 innings, a slight decline after posting an 0.92 ERA with the club the year before. During eight years in the major leagues, Manship carries a 4.82 career ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 6.4 SO/9 in multiple stints with the Twins, Rockies, Phillies and Indians.

The right-hander will be joined by fellow MLB transplants Eric Hacker and Xavier Scruggs, each of whom took one-year deals with the Dinos last month. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors notes that each KBO team is allowed up to three foreign players, so Manship will round out the trio when he joins the roster. Any salary terms have yet to be disclosed.