Angels Start Fresh, Ausmus Discusses New Team
After 19 seasons leading the Angels, Mike Scioscia is out as manager. Former Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus takes over, and discussed the upcoming season at the 2018 Winter Meetings today.
Q. What do you remember about the last time you managed an LA team in ’09?
BRAD AUSMUS: Actually, I managed in 10 also, that was the last time. We lost in ’10. In ’09 we won. I was 1-1 in LA prior to coming here now.
Q. Did Joe let you write your own lineup?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah, Joe let me do everything. First year in ’09, I mean, like I even had to do the postgame with the media. I made the lineup out and ran the game. And the following year, in 2010, Joe came up to me about maybe a week or two before the end of the season, he said, You’re going to manage the last game again. And I looked at him and I said, I can, but it’s going to be your last game, too, because he was retiring. Then he said, Well, why don’t you do the second to last game; I’ll do the last game.
Q. What’s the last month and change been like?
BRAD AUSMUS: It’s just been very business-like. This is a little different scenario for me because going into Detroit I didn’t have any background there, so I was getting to know the people as I went and as well as trying to prepare for a season.
It’s different because I was with the Angels all last year. I know the entire front office. I know the players. The players know who I am. So I think that’s going to make it a little bit easier.
The transition will be much easier. Transition in terms of my job but not a transition in terms of the entire organization, me getting to know them.
When I went to Lakeland my first Spring Training, 90% of the players, that’s the first time I ever said hi to them in person. That’s not the case here.
Q. How much did you learn from that time in Detroit as a manager?
BRAD AUSMUS: I learned a ton. I think experience is huge. Probably learn more from the mistakes than you do from the successes. And every single — whether strategic or something off the field, however — maybe how something was handled, you definitely learn.
I think experience is a huge asset.
Q. Do you spend a lot of time after that just kind of looking back on how it all went, what could have been done differently, or how do you look at that era?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah, I reflected on it. I wouldn’t say I sat in my recliner and didn’t move for six months. But I reflected on my time there. I enjoyed the time there. And hopefully it will serve me well here now in LA with the Angels.
Q. Now that your coaching staff has come together and it’s been announced, what were some of the things you were looking for in these guys, in how they fit now in your staff?
BRAD AUSMUS: You know, it’s funny. The way coaching staffs are put together nowadays, there’s a lot more outside-the-box thinking.
In years past, a lot of times, the coaching staff was friends of the manager, or they played together. Not that they weren’t qualified, but they’re not put together in the same fashion, I think. You’re seeing teams look outside the box in the sense they’re even looking into the private sector.
They’re looking into the collegiate levels. For me, I want people with knowledge. I want people with energy, and a huge part of it is positivity. Baseball’s a very tough game mentally. There’s so much failure, especially on the offensive side.
So piling on top of that negative feedback to me goes nowhere. So positivity is a big part. But you have to know what you’re talking about.
Q. Did you feel like player development was a big part of what you were looking for as well?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah, especially nowadays, players, they’re not finished products at the Big League level. So you need to have that ability to develop them further and teach them and help them learn themselves what they’re capable of.
Q. How much do you lean on analytics? So much of it is with spin rates and X velocity, launching and all that stuff. Is that something that managers look at, or is that more for your staff?
BRAD AUSMUS: It’s part of our process, whether it’s player procurement or the product on the field.
Analytics is part of it. And part of the reason I came on with Billy was I wanted to dive into that a little more. I wanted to learn more about what some of the measurements are and how they apply and what’s important. And so I spent a good portion of this previous season as a special assistant learning.
And Billy has not been shy about it, we’re going to use the information. The information helps us win games.
Q. What do you expect out of Albert Pujoles?
BRAD AUSMUS: My first hope is that Albert is okay. He’s had the knee surgery, and I’ve spoken to him a couple times. He says he feels great. But we’re still going to have to take it slowly in Spring Training.
And then it’s just going to be a matter of how he feels and how he’s performing.
Albert’s one of the greatest — in my mind, he’s one of the top five best hitters ever in the game of baseball. I saw him up close and personal when I was in Houston and they were in the National and Central, and the Cardinals as well.
This guy is a phenomenal talent. But going forward, it’s just going to be his health and performance. It’s a performance-based game.
Q. Is it going to be a difficult balancing act, I guess, with him obviously [inaudible] some DH bats [inaudible] his health and having Ohtani being a DH, is that going to be different for you?
BRAD AUSMUS: There’s going to be a balance. We don’t expect Ohtani to be ready when the season — the team breaks. There will be DH at-bats earlier in the season more available to him. And hopefully he gets off to a hot start.
But for me, the bigger and the more delicate balance is how often can he go to first. That’s really the most important thing based on the health of his knees.
Q. What were your impressions of Ohtani’s first year like that?
BRAD AUSMUS: He was okay (laughter). No, he’s doing things that no one has done in a long time. Ironically I think because of what he’s doing, I think you’re going to see more two-way players going forward. I think it’s going to be — I don’t want to call it a fad. I just think athletes, young athletes and baseball players, are going to say: Hey, wait a second, why can’t I do both.
So in that sense I think he’s going to have a big impact going forward with the youth in baseball. But he’s just a tremendous talent. I remember watching him take batting practice the first day in Tempe when I was there, because I was there in Spring Training for about four weeks, but I was there the opening ten days.
And immediately in batting practice, the one thing that stood out is how the ball came off his bat. The only way I can describe it is it’s very similar to Miguel Cabrera. And these guys have tremendous power. And even more notable, they have tremendous power to the opposite field. And you just don’t see guys like that.
The other thing that was really impressive was his speed. He doesn’t get showcased because he’s not playing a position too often. And I’ve said it many times, at his height, with his speed, once he breaks track, probably could be a wide receiver in the NFL. He’s one of the faster guys — I don’t know who is faster, he or Trouty, but they’re both two of the faster guys in the game.
Q. What did you see against lefties the beginning last year, he didn’t handle it so well. He got better as the year went on. Do you think that would be any kind of issue going forward?
BRAD AUSMUS: That will be a consideration. But I think — I thought Shohei proved he could handle lefties as the season went on. But, again, those are decisions that will have to be made at some point, but not right now.
Q. How much experience do you have — I know that Doug White is from San Diego. How much experience do you have working with him before?
BRAD AUSMUS: With him?
BRAD AUSMUS: I did not know Doug until we interviewed him. Ironically lives five minutes away from me. Frequents the same breakfast spot right by my house. But until we interviewed him, I had not — I didn’t — quite frankly, I didn’t know who he was.
But he’s really, really bright, young, kind of a new mind. His background isn’t the typical pitching coach background, but he’ll make our pitchers better.
Q. Can you describe as succinctly as you can just what his — what specialization and the health and all the movements, the way that the body moves, how do you think that will help the staff?
BRAD AUSMUS: He’s really proficient at a lot of the new technology-based information that can be really beneficial in helping pitchers get the most out of their pitches. Whether it’s the shape of the pitch or mechanical tweak to improve whatever the break of a pitch.
He’s really, really — I would say that’s probably his biggest plus. But of course he can do the other stuff as well, the mechanics and game preparation. He’s very capable in all that area.
But I just think his ability to improve a pitcher’s pitches is where his biggest — that’s where he’s going to make the biggest impact.
Q. Obviously you guys are going to be looking at more pitching, but how do you feel Tyler Skaggs can help lead the rotation?
BRAD AUSMUS: I feel great about him. I thought he really had a — I know Skaggsy was hurt, but I thought he pitched really well this past season. And I don’t see any reason — and I talked to Skaggsy about it. I told him I’m going to put a little heat on it. I think he should be one of the best lefties in the league. I like — his stuff is there. If he can stay healthy, he should be one of the best lefties in the league.
I feel the same way about Heaney, but I just haven’t told him. I’ll see him tomorrow. So hold off until Friday to print that.
Q. You guys are one of a few teams that now employees three hitting coaches. Why do you think that’s sort of necessary?
BRAD AUSMUS: Well, multiple reasons. One, there’s so much video involved you almost need a dedicated guy to be able to look at video and talk to the players with them. Game preparation, the preparation of the scouting reports for the incoming series, for the pitchers for the incoming series.
And then there’s just the physical time in the cage. You have 12 guys — I’m sorry. 12, 9, 4, 13 guys that need time in the cage, whether it’s soft toss, tee work. And there’s early batting practice, regular batting practice.
It’s physically the most time-intensive coaching job on the staff. And probably 10 years ago you started seeing two, and now you’re seeing a few teams go three.
Q. You brought up the amount of information during the season. How much of a struggle or how much of a focus is it, the task of simplifying that information so that they can actually go out and execute?
BRAD AUSMUS: That’s one of the main jobs for a manager and coaching staff, is taking that information and putting it in simple baseball lingo.
Players, they want little bits of information to make them better or help the team win. They don’t want to know every single data-specific number. They don’t want to know 2 and 1, 62 percent of the time he throws this. They just want little bits of information that can make them better and help us win. And that’s a big part of managers’ and coaches’ jobs nowadays.
Q. How important do you think it’s going to be to get maybe a more experienced catcher for the rest of the winter?
BRAD AUSMUS: Well, you know, we talk about wanting to improve the pitching staff. That’s one way you would improve the pitching staff, by getting a catcher who can make the pitchers better.
So I value it, having been a catcher, and I think it’s important. And we’re certainly — Billy’s looking into the catching very strongly. So hopefully something works out well where we have a guy that can do a little of everything but, yes, make our pitching staff better, and that should be their priority, because that’s where the impact is.
Q. Do you guys have an idea where Zack Cozart is going to play this coming season?
BRAD AUSMUS: We have an idea. It’s going to be in the infield (laughter). But it’s certainly going to be second or third base at this point. We’ll see what happens through the course of the offseason.
We have some young guys at the Minor League level that competed for both those positions, Fletch and Taylor Ward and Luis Rengifo down there. So right now it’s some combination of Coz and those guys fighting it out.
Q. From what you saw last year, how close is Rengifo being a Big League everyday player?
BRAD AUSMUS: I think he’s close. I think he’s very close. I’ve watched him play at three different levels. This past season, traveling around seeing our affiliates. And I was very impressed with him. Gives you a great at-bat. And he’s kind of a triple threat offensively. He can really run, and he’s got some power.
He doesn’t have Mike Trout power, but able to hit the ball in the gap and occasionally over the fence. But the speed is where it makes a difference. Now you’ve got the infield drawn in, the ball gets in the gap, it’s a triple instead of a double.
He’s a fun player to watch. And he can play — really can play second, short or third.
Q. What are the impressions you got of Jo Adell, obviously elevated a lot through the system last year?
BRAD AUSMUS: I saw Joe — I actually saw Jo at a couple of levels — he’s one of those guys, we talked about Tommy earlier, he’s one of those guys — I’m not going to say he has power like Ohtani or Cabrera. He’s not far off. Different sound when the ball comes off the bat.
Tremendous athlete. Legitimately can play centerfield. There’s a lot of people around the game that know Jo Adell. A lot of people have come up to me after I’ve been hired in this role asking about Jo Adell. Tremendous athlete. Griffin Canning I only saw pitch once, but the people who have seen him really like him. It was really his first season of pro ball. I know he was drafted for pitching in pro ball. Climbed quickly from A ball to Triple-A.
Q. Do you think Adell could be in the Big Leagues this coming season?
BRAD AUSMUS: I think it’s a possibility. I don’t know that — we’re talking about Rengifo, I think it’s much more likely to see Rengifo. I guess it’s a possibility, depending on the performance of the player.
Q. I know it’s a long way to go, but do you have any target for Ohtani coming back?
BRAD AUSMUS: No, you know, it’s kind of unchartered territory in the sense he’s coming back from Tommy John and we really want to protect that elbow so he can pitch in 2020 and beyond.
And he’s such a dominant pitcher, you want to make sure you preserve that. So we’re going to probably rely on the medical team a little more than and be a little bit more cautious. Obviously we want him back because we want his bat in the lineup. But the priority is to make sure when he’s back we’re not risking him as a pitcher.
We’re not sure on the exact date right now.
Q. Once he gets back, though, do you feel like you could trot him out there once —
BRAD AUSMUS: I can’t answer that. We’ll have to lean on the medical team to make — I’m not sure that surgery, that injury repair needs time off after DHing for two days? I’m going to lean on the professionals.
Q. Your father was a professor of European history. Major League baseball comes [inaudible]. What is it about baseball that you love so much?
BRAD AUSMUS: Geez, I’ve loved baseball since I was born. My mom was a big baseball fan, so I didn’t really have a choice. And it’s one of those — I think similar to soccer, it’s one of those games you learn to appreciate more and more as you watch it. So hopefully we can get European fans engaged, and then the more they watch it, the more they’ll enjoy it.
Good job knowing that my dad was a professor of European history. Actually medieval history.
Q. You mentioned Cabrera hitting opposite field power and Ohtani the same, could you go over the similarities and differences of those?
BRAD AUSMUS: Miguel, Miggy, he’s one of the — talking about Albert, Miggy is right up there in terms of one of the best hitters in the history of the game. He’s obviously done it for a decade, a little over a decade as a Major League player.
And I think in terms of consistently getting hits, Miggy’s a little more adept. Doesn’t mean he can’t still get there one time. Shohei is still young. He’s still a young player. I think people lose sight of the fact because he’s so talented that he is young. He should only get better.
The ceiling is unlimited for him, and I think experience is going to be a big — and he’s a gracious worker. So you won’t lack effort. This guy works as hard as anybody in the clubhouse.
Q. [Inaudible] but also a high average?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah. Miggy, yeah. That’s what I’m saying, Miggy’s done a lot longer, he’s got the track record of consistency. But it doesn’t mean that Shohei couldn’t do something similar. It’s a high bar.
Q. But it’s a potential?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yes, the potential is there.
Q. What do you see him — that he can get better next season as a manager?
BRAD AUSMUS: Well, first of all, I think his comfort level with Major League Baseball in the United States is going to be a lot better.
And he’s now seen some of the pitchers. So he’s got experience. And certainly that will help him. Although the pitchers have seen him as well. So there’s a little give and take.
I think probably the power is going to be there. It will end up being the consistency of getting hits. He gets on base because he walks, but the consistency of getting hits.
So he’s a special player. He really is. Even if you take — if he was just a pitcher, he’d be a special pitcher; if he was just a hitter, he would be a special hitter. Now you’ve got both.
Q. Do you anticipate having one guy kind of emerge as your closer and keeping him on that role, or do you think it will be kind of —
BRAD AUSMUS: It’s too early to say. And truthfully if someone is not the closer, you hope somebody earns it, like someone pitches well enough so you can say, hey, this guy’s really done the job. But right now I couldn’t tell you.
Q. Do you talk to medical people [inaudible] the base running skills and how risky sometimes base running —
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah, he doesn’t really slide head first, which is good. But I get a little nervous when he does slide because, again, he’s a special talent. And you don’t want to lose — we’ve already lost him for this coming season as a pitcher. We don’t want to lose him to an injury that applies to all players.
It’s a fine line. You want him to use his assets. You want him to use his speed, but you want it to be smart about it because you don’t want him to get hurt. So it’s a balance.
Q. Would you talk to medical expert about that area?
BRAD AUSMUS: About sliding? I don’t know many doctors that slide. (Laughter).
Q. How risky it is, potentially?
BRAD AUSMUS: I don’t think they could tell you how risky it is. Obviously you can get injured doing that. But you can get injured getting off a bus, too.
Q. Simmons’ offense has picked up in the last couple of years. Is there a way you can see that continue to rise over the next few years?
BRAD AUSMUS: Yeah, I can see it. I hope it does. His value — as his offense has gone up, he’s so valuable defensively he becomes an MVP candidate. If he continues to hit like that or hit better, now maybe he’s a top five MVP candidate. Unfortunately for him he’s got Mike Trout on the same team.
But he’s definitely improved the last couple of years, and this year — his bat-to-ball ability is amazing. He can get the barrel of the bat to the ball on seemingly pitches that you shouldn’t be able to get the bat to the ball. I think that helps.
He’s a tremendous player. You just don’t see two-way guys play like that have such an impact on the game from both sides.
Q. With Mike Trout always gone back and forth between hitting second and third, I know you need to know the whole lineup, but do you have a preference where you think he’s best?
BRAD AUSMUS: For me I probably would hit Trout at second right now. That could change depending on personnel. But the short answer is probably second.