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CLEVELAND (AP) — Manager Brad Ausmus was back at the ballpark Friday, preparing to manage the Detroit Tigers.
But for how much longer?
"I'm not going to put odds on it," Ausmus said when asked if he expects to be back next season.
Tigers general manager Al Avila released a statement Friday amid reports that the team had already decided to fire Ausmus at the end of what has turned into a lackluster season.
"I reconfirmed with (owner) Mr. (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," Avila said as the Tigers prepared for a game in Cleveland.
Avila took over as GM after Dave Dombrowski was let go early last month.
"The report was a surprise to me," Avila said in a text message Friday. "Nothing has changed from what I have said before."
Ausmus is in his second season in Detroit's dugout and this year has not gone well by any measure. The four-time defending AL Central champions have sunk to last place in the division after an 11-2 start and only Oakland has a lower winning percentage in the league.
Ausmus spoke with reporters prior to Friday night's game against the Indians.
"I talked to Al this morning," he said. "Since then, it's been business as usual. I'm very comfortable with where everything is now. I think Al's statement covered it."
Ausmus said he became aware of the reports following Thursday night's 7-5 loss to Cleveland.
After replacing the retired Jim Leyland, Ausmus guided Detroit to a fourth straight division title in 2014. The Tigers, though, were swept in the Division Series by Baltimore, and they have been one of the most disappointing teams in the majors this year.
Now speculation about Ausmus' future is swirling.
"It's hard not to think about it," Ausmus said. "But I'm not focusing on it or anything. ... The truth is players will respect you or not respect you, regardless of your contract situation."
Catcher Alex Avila, the general manager's son, said the players are trying to block out any distractions.
"It's just noise," he said. "You can't control that. I don't think it has an effect on what we do from day to day."
Detroit fell so short of expectations that it traded stars David Price and Yoenis Cespedes before the non-waiver trade deadline. Almost immediately after that, Dombrowski was let go and Avila was promoted to replace him.
Ausmus had little managerial experience when he took over for Leyland, and during the first few weeks of his tenure, the former major league catcher looked like exactly the type of younger, fresher voice who could help the Tigers keep their run going. Detroit started 27-12 in 2014, but that turned into an up-and-down season in which Miguel Cabrera and the star-laden Tigers didn't wrap up the division until the final day of the regular season.
After this year's strong start, the Tigers eventually fell well behind first-place Kansas City, and Ausmus was repeatedly unable to navigate the late innings with a much-maligned bullpen.
Detroit's core of Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez has shown more signs of age lately, with all three having dealt with injuries this year. The pitching staff — both the rotation and bullpen — may need a major overhaul if the Tigers are to contend again in 2016.
"He won the division in his first year as a manager," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "This year has been kind of a mess. There's been some injuries we've had to fight through. Obviously, we didn't live up to expectations. I don't know how much of that is his fault and where the blame is to go around. It's been a tough year."
Ilitch has poured plenty of money into this team, trying to win Detroit's first World Series since 1984, but keeping the Tigers' window of opportunity open has become increasingly difficult.
AP Baseball Writer Noah Trister and AP Sports Writer Larry Lage contributed to this report.
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