Leyland pleased with hirings of Ausmus, McClendon
Former Detroit skipper diving into new role in front office as Tigers special assistant
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland stayed out of the Tigers' hiring process for his replacement, as he said he would. All he said on his way out at his news conference last month was that he felt like Lloyd McClendon was ready to manage again.
McClendon didn't get the chance to manage in Detroit. His opportunity in Seattle is no less satisfying for Leyland.
"Oh, I'm thrilled. There's no mixed emotions," Leyland said Wednesday evening in a phone conversation, having just returned from the Tigers' organizational meetings. "It's a great opportunity for him with a lot of big arms out there. I think [the Mariners] have a great chance to get good quick."
Short of McClendon getting a chance in Detroit, things worked out about as well as Leyland could have hoped.
While Leyland talked only once with Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski over the course of the hiring process, and that time only at the end, he didn't talk much more with McClendon. They talked twice by Leyland's count, though he has been in touch more since the Mariners made their hire.
"I've been through that process," Leyland said. "It's hard to stay calm during that process because you're on pins and needles. A lot of times, these things take time."
It couldn't have been that calm for Leyland, either. McClendon is a longtime confidant, one of three coaches who were on Leyland's staff for all eight seasons he served as Tigers manager. Gene Lamont and Rafael Belliard were the others. Lamont was in the tricky position of being close to both McClendon and Ausmus, two of the four candidates who interviewed for the Detroit job.
While Leyland was finding out about Ausmus' hiring and driving to Detroit for meetings, McClendon was interviewing for a second time in Seattle. Leyland found out about the M's job soon after McClendon did.
"Things really worked out great," Leyland said. "Gene's back in Detroit [as Ausmus' bench coach]. Mac got a manager's job. The Tigers got an outstanding guy. I'm happy. You just hope that the other guys all land on their feet, but it really worked out good. I think Dave made a really good hiring, and Brad made a very good hiring, and Mac's managing."
Leyland, meanwhile, is consulting for now. The Tigers' newest special assistant was part of their organizational meetings for three days, which gave him his first chance to talk with Ausmus since he got the job.
Leyland managed against Ausmus as a catcher, and heard plenty about him from Lamont. The face-to-face meetings gave Ausmus a chance to pick his brain.
"We had several quick conversations," Leyland said, "and it was really good. I just left it like, 'Look, Brad, I'm available anytime. If you have any question, feel free to call me anytime.' I really enjoyed it. I was really impressed with him. When we left today, he said he'd be calling me."
Leyland had to chuckle at the irony. The longtime Minor Leaguer who spent more than two decades managing in the big leagues without ever playing in the Majors was giving advice to a first-time manager who caught in the big leagues for 18 years.
"He graduated from Dartmouth," Leyland said, "and I graduated from Perrysburg High School."