Hardest-working Tiger in camp? Maybe Alex Avila
The Tigers don’t start official workouts until Monday, but most of the pitchers are already in camp. The hardest-working Tiger in the early workouts, though, might well be the starting catcher.
“It’s been a good offseason for me,” Alex Avila said Friday. “I was pumped to get down here two Mondays ago.”
Actually, he drove up here to Lakeland from Miami. He was working out there with Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera. When they went back to Venezuela for one more stretch at home, Avila headed north.
He wanted to be around to work with the pitchers — especially the ones he hasn’t caught before — and he wanted to get in some hitting work that’s easier to do in a Spring Training facility than it is somewhere else. So right now, he’s doing a lot of both.
“You’re working out and running and everything can get you ready physically,” he said, “but there’s being in good shape, and then there’s baseball shape. That’s why I come in early, to get in baseball shape. Now, if you’re in good shape, it makes it easier to get into baseball shape. I came here to start catching pitchers and getting used to squatting again.”
Since the pitchers start getting their work done around 9 a.m., Avila gets in his hitting work beforehand. On average, he’s catching two or three mound sessions a day. Add in some training work, and he’s in until early afternoon. He’ll probably get out earlier when the actual workouts get going, and the catcher roster fills out, even though he’ll catch more pitchers then. As it is, Don Kelly and some of the minor-league catchers such as Rob Brantly are helping out.
“At this point, it’s just enough to get used to the squatting and get your footwork down and everything like that,” he said. “It makes for good work up until the start of camp. And then once camp starts, it’s like pitchers everywhere. There’s like 50 guys that have to throw.”
It’s a ton of work, and not surprisingly, Avila loves it. He’s the starting catcher, and it’s tough to wipe the smile off his face.
“Honestly, it’s a shorter day than during the season,” he said. “It’s a full-time job. You know. You have to be there.”