Rotation bolstered, Ausmus has to sort CF, bullpen
DETROIT (AP) — Brad Ausmus now has the luxury of managing the American League’s last three Cy Young Award winners.
Still, the trade that brought David Price to the Detroit Tigers leaves the first-year skipper with a few issues to sort through.
“It certainly makes our starting rotation better,” Ausmus said. “But we’ve still got to go out there and score runs, and we’ve got to hold leads. Nothing’s being handed to us. This is a great addition, but we’ve got to go out there and win.”
By acquiring Price from Tampa Bay on Thursday just before the trade deadline, the AL Central-leading Tigers bolstered a rotation that was already one of the team’s strengths — but to do so they had to give up starting center fielder Austin Jackson and left-handed starter Drew Smyly. Ausmus will have to decide how to divide playing time in center — and the bullpen remains a potential trouble spot as well.
Detroit has won three straight AL Central titles, so its starting pitching has usually been able to mask some of the team’s other problems. Justin Verlander won the Cy Young Award in 2011, with teammate Max Scherzer winning in 2013. Price took the award in 2012.
“You’re talking about a caliber of pitcher who has won a Cy Young, and I think that answers how he can fit in and help this team,” Verlander said. “He’s a power pitcher, which always plays well in the playoffs. We have to get there first.”
If the Tigers get there, Ausmus would have to decide whom to put in his postseason rotation. Rick Porcello was moved to the bullpen last year in the playoffs, but he’s 12-5 with a 3.24 ERA in 2014. Verlander, on the other hand, has struggled, taking a 4.79 ERA into Friday night’s start against Colorado. Would the Tigers consider using him in relief?
That’s one of the questions Ausmus may face if Detroit remains atop the AL Central. The Tigers also acquired reliever Joakim Soria recently in a trade from Texas — but the bullpen still hasn’t been all that reliable. Smyly could have provided some left-handed relief if he’d been moved to the bullpen for the postseason, but he went to Tampa Bay in the trade. That leaves Phil Coke, Blaine Hardy and Patrick McCoy as the left-handed options out of the bullpen for now.
General manager Dave Dombrowski said he doesn’t think he’ll be able to make any more significant moves, now that players have to go through the waiver process to be traded.
Detroit purchased the contract of outfielder Ezequiel Carrera before Friday’s game, and he’ll have a chance to contribute in center field, although Rajai Davis was starting there Friday.
The 27-year-old Carrera played in the majors for Cleveland and Philadelphia from 2011-13, although he hasn’t played more than 68 big league games in a season.
“He’s a very good defensive outfielder, he can run, he can certainly steal bases,” Ausmus said. “He’s got the ability to bunt, bunt for a hit. He’s more kind of an action player. He makes things happen and uses his feet to at times wreak havoc.”
The Tigers are hoping Price will wreak havoc on the mound — and that there’s enough talent on the rest of the roster for a long postseason run. Price wasn’t in the clubhouse before Friday’s game — he was expected to be in Detroit on Saturday — but his arrival leaves little doubt about the front office’s commitment to this push for a championship.
“As a manager, you’re appreciative. You want to win, and they’re trying to make you better,” Ausmus said. “I’ve been on teams where they’re dumping people as well. It’s a lot better feeling when you’re going after players to help you win.”