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Leyland makes first appearance at spring camp

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LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jim Leyland pulled into the parking lot at Joker Marchant Stadium like he did on hundreds of mornings over the previous eight springs. The first difference came when he walked through the gate with a credential around his neck.

"The guy checked three times," Leyland said.

Instead of walking into the clubhouse, Leyland walked around it, back to the waiting area. He never entered the clubhouse, instead greeting players on the field. That's not his work area anymore, and he doesn't want even the perception that he's taking away from Brad Ausmus' new job.

"He's been fantastic. He's called me and texted me a few times. But I'm totally out of the way," Leyland said of the Tigers' new manager. "I want to make that point perfectly clear. I don't go in the clubhouse.

"I'm just here to assist [team president/general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] if something comes up that he wants me to do. I'll have some assignments, I'm sure, but people can rest easy. I'm not going to have anything to do with it. I'm not going to be hanging around the players or going into the clubhouse, anything like that."

By "it," Leyland means the Tigers' season. He'll play a behind-the-scenes role in the organization, evaluating players both in the organization and on assignment scouting other teams, but his managerial days are done. And he's fine with that.

"This is really not an adjustment period for me," Leyland said. "If I thought it was going to be an adjustment period, I wouldn't have retired. I'm doing what I want to do now. I'm very thankful. Hopefully, I can help a little bit. It's just a different way. But I'm really excited about it, still happy to be with the Tigers. I've got some action, and I'm not just sitting at home totally retired."

Ausmus has been trying to shake Leyland of that reluctance to get in the way. He'd like to use Leyland as a resource, both for himself and the players, and he has tried to get others to lobby Leyland about it to get him more involved.

The two talked for about 10 minutes Tuesday on the field before batting practice. Ausmus said he touched base with Leyland on a couple of matters they had discussed earlier.

"I've told Jim, I've told Dave to tell Jim, I've told [bench coach] Gene Lamont to tell Jim that he should think twice about [staying out of the way]," Ausmus said. "As comfortable as I am with him being wherever he'd like to be -- whether he's on the field or not -- he has to comfortable with it. I'd love to have him around, love to have him leaning against the batting cage. But that's Jim's call as to how much he wants to get involved."

By all appearances, the Tigers were happy to see Leyland back. And Leyland showed he hasn't exactly fallen out of touch with his old players.

As soon he saw Andy Dirks in warmups, he gave his old left fielder grief about finally cutting his hair. As soon as he saw Austin Jackson, he yelled, "I saw your dunk on the computer."

As Leyland walked by the reporters who used to track his daily moves, he warned them that he's been keeping up with their clips. He used to keep track of what people were saying about him. Now he's tracking what is said about Ausmus.

"Brad's got a great feel for it. I can see that already," Leyland said. "I've been reading the clips, and he's come off very well. I think he's presented himself very well.

"He actually has a real advantage over me when I managed my first year because I was a Double-A player. I mean, Brad is an 18-year [Major League] veteran. I think he caught more games than anyone but six other guys or something like that. He's got something going for him. But you can tell he's got great people skills. He's very bright, obviously. I think he's going to do great, I really do. He's got a great bunch of guys to work with. So I'm looking forward to watching the Tigers play."

For the most part, Leyland will be watching from afar. When he's on assignment, it'll be to watch teams other than this one. But he's eager to track.

"It's different, but it's a good different," he said. "No second thoughts or anything like that. I'm excited about it."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }
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