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Ausmus returning as Detroit Tigers’ manager in 2017

DETROIT (AP) — Brad Ausmus will return next year for a fourth season as manager of the Detroit Tigers.

The team announced Wednesday that it is exercising the 2017 option on his contract. Detroit was eliminated from playoff contention Sunday, but a 12-game improvement from 2015 was enough for Ausmus to keep his job.

Ausmus is 250-234 in Detroit and the Tigers have finished first, last and second in the AL Central during his tenure. He took over after the 2013 season, when Jim Leyland stepped down. After leading Detroit to its fourth straight division championship in his first year, Ausmus has struggled to keep the Tigers in contention for their first World Series title since 1984.

Detroit made a run at a wild card this year, going 86-75.

“Brad was instrumental in leading the team through adversity and with the development of our younger players, particularly the young starting pitchers,” general manager Al Avila said in a statement.

With Ausmus coming back, the Tigers can begin next season with plenty of continuity if they choose to. If they pick up options on closer Francisco Rodriguez and outfielder Cameron Maybin, they won’t have any major free agents who might leave this offseason. The core of Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez was able to stay healthy this season, and Verlander re-established himself as one of the American League’s top starters.

There was speculation toward the end of the 2015 season about whether Ausmus would be back, but the team kept him for 2016. His position seemed particularly tenuous this past May, when the Tigers lost 11 of 12, but they fought back and were only a half-game out of a playoff spot before dropping their final two games at Atlanta last weekend.

Detroit stayed in it thanks to the performance of Verlander and rookie Michael Fulmer, who boosted a rotation that was hurt by Jordan Zimmermann’s injury problems and Anibal Sanchez’s continued decline. Justin Upton struggled for most of his first year with the Tigers but went on a late-season tear that nearly lifted the team into the postseason.

Ian Kinsler had a fine season at second base, and Cabrera produced his usual outstanding line with a .316 batting average, 38 home runs and 108 RBIs.

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