TAMPA, Fla. -- On the first day of Tigers workouts, new manager Brad Ausmus had his pitchers working on pickoff throws, including the little-used pickoff to third base. Given Ausmus' focus on preparation all spring, it was surely going to come into play in a game this spring.
Ausmus just didn't want it in this game. And as he walked out of the dugout Friday night, having seen reliever Luis Marte called for a balk that brought in the Yankees' winning run in a 3-2 Tigers loss, Ausmus was struggling to figure out why Marte tried a pickoff in the first place.
Then it hit him.
"We have a play where you pick to third, and I unknowingly gave it," Ausmus said. "Really, as I was walking up the runway, I realized that I had given it to him. Don't blame the player for that one. Blame the manager."
For all the praise heaped on Ausmus for his intellect and his focus on preparation, he was bound for a miscue. This was the first noticeable one, although he might have gotten away with it and left Marte with the blame had he not fessed up after the game.
"It was my fault," Ausmus reiterated. "The player didn't screw up. I actually ended up giving a sign by accident, and realized after I walked off the field that I had given a sign. You can chalk that one up to me."
Marte had runners at the corners and one out in the bottom of the ninth. Third baseman Francisco Martinez apparently did not pick up the accidental sign, because he wasn't at the bag when the throw came in. That brought the balk call, which brought in the game-ending run.