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Tigers tab Harbaugh to coach first in spring game

Univ. of Michigan football coach longtime baseball fan
MLB.com @beckjason

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brad Ausmus doesn't have much first-hand knowledge of the recruiting world. He made a last-minute trip to Arizona last month to visit with then-free agent Justin Upton at his home.

"I didn't bring Derek Jeter with me," Ausmus quipped, "or Jim Leyland."

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brad Ausmus doesn't have much first-hand knowledge of the recruiting world. He made a last-minute trip to Arizona last month to visit with then-free agent Justin Upton at his home.

"I didn't bring Derek Jeter with me," Ausmus quipped, "or Jim Leyland."

Tigers' Spring Training info

Still, Ausmus has followed University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh's recruiting efforts second-hand, from a sleepover at a recruit's house to the Signing of the Stars event Harbaugh orchestrated on National Signing Day. And Ausmus knows enough to understand that sometimes any publicity is good publicity.

"I would say there's something to it for sure," Ausmus said. "It got them national attention, and now recruits, sophomores and juniors in high school that play football across the country probably say, 'Hey, that's pretty cool. I wouldn't mind going there.' So it's almost an advertising/promotional campaign. I think it's intelligent."

Michigan's spring practices at Florida's IMG Academy this coming week might well fall into that category. Harbaugh's upcoming stint coaching first base for the Tigers in Wednesday's game against the Pirates in nearby Bradenton, Ausmus suggested, was more organic than orchestrated.

"It was just a situation where he was in town," Ausmus said. "He was going to the game. We were made aware of it and knew that he had coached first base for Oakland, knew he was a big Tigers and baseball fan, so the connection was made."

Ausmus said he knew of Harbaugh back when he was coaching at the University of San Diego, where Ausmus went to a game.

"He's been very successful," Ausmus said. "He's got a very infectious personality. He deserves the attention he's got. I don't know if I've seen anyone like him. Seems like it's deserved."

Technically, the Tigers need Major League Baseball's approval for Harbaugh's coaching stint. Since Harbaugh has done it before, coaching first base for seven innings for the A's and good friend Bob Melvin last spring, approval is expected to be a formality.

Asked if he might have to give equal time to Michigan State at the Tigers' other split-squad game Wednesday against the Yankees in Tampa, Ausmus said Mark Dantonio is welcome.

"If he's in Tampa, all we need is a phone call," Ausmus said.

Quick hits

• Reliever Montreal Robertson has been shut down from throwing after injuring his shoulder in the weight room Saturday. "Kind of a freak thing," Ausmus said, "where he was just trying to sit himself up. So he will not be picking up a ball right now. We're going to get further tests."

 • Outfielder Anthony Gose returned to camp Sunday after missing Saturday's workout with a stomach virus that left him unable to hold down food. He seemingly felt fine when he sent a Justin Verlander pitch over the fence in batting practice Sunday morning.

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

Detroit Tigers