DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers hired Brad Ausmus as their new manager Sunday, turning to a 44-year-old former catcher with almost no managerial experience to replace Jim Leyland at the helm of the three-time defending AL Central champions.
Ausmus, who worked most recently in the San Diego Padres front office as a special assistant to the general manager, emerged as Detroit's pick less than two weeks after Leyland stepped down. Ausmus takes over a team that has reached the AL championship series three straight years and should be well positioned for another big season in 2014.
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Ausmus managed Israel's team in the World Baseball Classic, but he's inexperienced as a manager compared to some other potential candidates. Ausmus played in the majors from 1993-2010.
The Tigers also interviewed Padres bench coach Rick Renteria and Los Angeles Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach -- as well as Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.
If continuity was Detroit's main concern, McClendon may have been the choice, but the Tigers acted a bit more boldly in hiring the Dartmouth-educated Ausmus, whose name also surfaced recently in connection with the Chicago Cubs' job.
Detroit is one of three teams with first-time major league managers who should have a chance to win right away in 2014. The Washington Nationals hired Matt Williams to replace Davey Johnson. The Cincinnati Reds, who fired Dusty Baker after a 90-win season, went with pitching coach Bryan Price as their new manager.
Ausmus is 24 years younger than the man he's replacing, and he inherits a roster with a high payroll and several big names, including Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera. He'll have a chance to win right away, and he'll have to deal with high expectations.
The contrasts with the crusty-but-respected Leyland are obvious, and Ausmus will have to prove he can guide this star-studded team through the inevitable rough patches -- but it wasn't long ago that Ausmus was on the other side of that player-manager relationship. He played in 1,971 games with four different teams. He played for the Tigers for part of the 1996 season, and again from 1999-2000.