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Tigers: Evaluating Ausmus, no decision made

CLEVELAND -- Nothing has changed, Tigers general manager Al Avila said Friday. Brad Ausmus is still the manager and will be through the end of the season.

"He'll manage the rest of the season," Avila said in a phone interview with on Friday afternoon.

Likewise, Ausmus said later Friday, nothing has changed from his standpoint. He still has a game and a team to manage, and a season to finish out.

"I'm very comfortable with where everything is right now," Ausmus said.

And yet, at the same time, the sense of a manager in limbo -- left to handle a job for the next 22 games and await his ruling -- was looming.

Multiple reports late Thursday night cited a source within the Tigers front office saying that Ausmus, who is under contract through next season, will be dismissed when the season ends in just over three weeks. Ausmus told reporters afterward that he hadn't been told anything about his status. Tigers officials, meanwhile, said they were caught by surprise.

"We were all surprised," Avila said.

The Tigers issued a statement from Avila on Friday afternoon: "I have stated several times since becoming executive vice president of baseball operations and general manager that we are evaluating all personnel, and know that includes the players, the manager and his staff, and Minor League operations. In fact, I reconfirmed with [Tigers owner Mike] Ilitch and manager Brad Ausmus this morning that these evaluations are on-going and decisions in any of these areas will be made by the end of the season."

Both conversations, Avila said, came Friday morning. He said Ilitch reassured him that he hadn't made a decision. Avila said later Friday that he did not know where the source of such a report would come from and that the leak concerned him.

"It did not come from baseball operations," Avila said.

Ausmus, for his part, stayed out of the source-hunting game.

"I mean, that's coming from above me," he said. "That's not really my concern. My concern is the clubhouse and the field. So I'm not worried if there are multiple voices coming from above me. I can't control that."

Speculation has grown about Ausmus' status since Dave Dombrowski's dismissal as GM in early August. A new general manager gets the chance to choose his manager in most cases, except for well-established managers. Avila, however, was Dombrowski's top assistant and played a major role in the hiring process when Ausmus followed Jim Leyland after the 2013 season.

Leyland chose his own path out, retiring the day after the Tigers were eliminated in the ALCS. In this profession, he's the exception.

"Very few managers end up walking away from the job," Ausmus said. "They're usually told to walk away, and even when they're not fired, they're often just not re-hired. So trust me, I'm aware of that, and I've been aware of that since I was a player."

Or as he later joked, "I still haven't hung pictures up on the wall in my office."

Ausmus is completing his second season not only as Detroit's manager but as a manager at the big league level. The Tigers won their fourth consecutive division title with a 90-72 record in Ausmus' first season before the Orioles swept them out of the AL Division Series.

Ausmus' second Tigers club has struggled for most of the season, partly due to roster moves that backfired, partly due to injuries, and partly due to underperformance from established players. The result is what will almost surely be the Tigers' first losing season since 2008.

Detroit fell to 64-76 with Thursday's loss at Cleveland and Friday's game was rained out and will be made up as a traditional doubleheader on Sunday. The Tigers need to win nine of their final 22 games to avoid their first 90-loss season since 2005, the season before Leyland was hired as manager.

At this point, Ausmus has those 22 games. What happens from there, Avila insists, hasn't been decided yet.

"I have a contract," Ausmus said, "and I'll do everything I can to help the Tigers until they tell me they don't want me to help them, or until the contract expires -- whichever comes first."

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