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Ausmus stresses smarter baserunning

Manager wants Tigers to have 'extra base' mindset at camp
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Saturday was photo day at Tigers camp, so players were dressed in full uniform long before workouts began at Tigertown. Manager Brad Ausmus took advantage of the opportunity.

While players waited on photo assignments, they hit the fields for a reminder on not waiting while on base. As outfielders from Minor League minicamp fielded balls, Ausmus had baserunners read their routes and decide whether to take the extra base.

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Saturday was photo day at Tigers camp, so players were dressed in full uniform long before workouts began at Tigertown. Manager Brad Ausmus took advantage of the opportunity.

While players waited on photo assignments, they hit the fields for a reminder on not waiting while on base. As outfielders from Minor League minicamp fielded balls, Ausmus had baserunners read their routes and decide whether to take the extra base.

"It was more about reading the ball off the bat when you're on first or second and having the mindset to go from first to third, recognizing when you can go first-to-third or second-to-home," Ausmus said.

Like his first Spring Training as manager, expect the Tigers to be aggressive in that regard.

"You can give them the concepts, but a lot of times they have to experience it," Ausmus said. "So we basically told them, 'Don't worry about getting thrown out here in Spring Training. This is the place to do it. But try to learn and recognize what you're capable of.'"

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The mentality will not change the Tigers into a great baserunning team, but their fall from below average to league worst last season was steep. Detroit had a net loss of 21 runs in Bill James' team baserunning ratings in 2014, according to the Bill James Handbook, but dropped to minus-107 last year, 36 runs worse than the next Major League team.

Not surprisingly, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera both played a role, hobbling through injuries to minus-22 ratings. Worse, however, were youngsters James McCann (minus-28), Nick Castellanos (minus-25) and Jose Iglesias (minus-23).

Tigers baserunners moved from first to third base on singles 73 times in 321 chances last year, the worst ratio in the Majors. They fared slightly better going second to home, 100 times in 183 opportunities. Add in 152 double-play grounders, and Detroit had a minus-88 rating running the bases, not counting steals.

A healthier Cabrera and Martinez should make a difference, but the Tigers need more. That's where mentality makes a difference.

Tweet from @tigers: .@MiguelCabrera �� at #Tigers Photo Day! https://t.co/GE1tQ4QW06

"Running the bases intelligently, I think, is the biggest thing," Ausmus said. "Everybody can talk about being aggressive, but sometimes being aggressive runs you into outs. So it's more about being a smart, aggressive baserunner, as opposed to just being aggressive.

"If you're standing on first, the mindset should be [going for] third base. Instead of a ball being hit and you're running to second and you're saying, 'I can get to third,' it should be, 'I'm going to third until I can no longer go to third [safely].'"

It's the mentality Tigers coaches tried to instill with Curtis Granderson nearly a decade ago to encourage him to go for extra bases. He ended up with 38 doubles and 23 triples in 2007, the latter leading the Majors. The Tigers led the American League last year with 49 triples and finished fifth with 289 doubles. McCann and Castellanos, despite their low baserunning ratings, had five and six triples, respectively.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Detroit Tigers