May 8th, 2012

Avila out with sore patella tendon in left knee (updated)

The Tigers brought back Gerald Laird as a backup catcher in large part to help ease the wear and tear on Alex Avila, who developed patella soreness in both knees by season’s end from catching every day. Now that Avila has a sore patella tendon in his left knee again, Laird is back behind the plate for the rest of the Tigers’ series in Seattle.

Avila is potentially available to catch in an emergency, but barring that, he won’t be behind the plate for at least tonight and Wednesday.

“He had this issue last year some,” manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday afternoon. “I’m not making a big deal about it, but I’m not making light of it either.”

Neither is Avila, who said he “definitely” thinks he could be back in the lineup Thursday. He said doctors told him he’ll have to work to strengthen the muscles around the knee, but that it shouldn’t be anything long term.

“I can’t do anything more to it,” Avila said. “It’s just a pain tolerance issue. It’s not going to require surgery or anything like that.”

Leyland and Avila said he first felt it when he charged out from behind the plate on Michael Saunders’ bunt single in the third inning. Avila didn’t say anything about it to Leyland, who kept him in the game the rest of the night.

“I felt bad last night,” Leyland said. “I probably should’ve gotten him out of there in the ninth inning, but I didn’t hear about it.”

Avila said that by game’s end, it was pretty bad.

“Probably the worse stages of last year, I felt yesterday,” Avila said. “Why, I have no idea.”

Tuesday: Tigers at Mariners

I think it’s safe to say that Andy Dirks batting second is now more than mixing up the lineup. He’s in there again today, and again playing in left, with Delmon Young as the designated hitter.

With Alex Avila off out with patella soreness in his left knee, Gerald Laird gets the start behind the plate, and Ryan Raburn (3-for-4 off Kevin Millwood, for what that’s worth) moves up to sixth in the lineup. Interesting call on Avila, especially with lefty Jason Vargas going for Seattle tomorrow night in the series finale.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Andy Dirks, LF
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B
  5. Delmon Young, DH
  6. Ryan Raburn, 2B
  7. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  8. Brennan Boesch, RF
  9. Gerald Laird, C

P: Justin Verlander

MARINERS

  1. Dustin Ackley,

Taking apart Monday’s walkoff loss

I wrote Monday’s game story from the standpoint that if you were going to trust in a Tigers reliever other than Jose Valverde or Joaquin Benoit to protect a ninth-inning lead, it would’ve been Octavio Dotel, both for his experience as a former closer and in his numbers as a non-closing reliever this year. If not him, who? After all, this is the guy the Tigers signed to provide another veteran presence in the bullpen.

That was the decision for the ninth inning. It’s the decisions leading up to that which make it a little more complicated.

Nobody on the Tigers pitching staff owns right-handed hitters like Dotel has over at least the last couple years. And the one lefty Dotel was due to face, Ichiro Suzuki, was 1-for-10 with five strikeouts lifetime against him. By comparison, Ichiro is 5-for-11 off Phil Coke, including 4-for-6 since the start of last season.

Overall, Dotel had gotten off to a better start than any Tigers reliever not named Duane Below. If you were going to go to the bullpen for the ninth, even with Phil Coke available, Dotel was the most logical option.

The previous inning, the Mariners had three straight left-handed hitters coming up, which made that Coke’s territory. Yes, he could have easily kept Fister in to at least start the eighth, but unless Fister was going to get the chance to go for a complete game, that probably wouldn’t have changed the choice of Dotel for the ninth.

Leyland had not stated any sort of pitch count for Fister, though his move to pull Fister after 73 pitches suggested there might have been a count in mind. (Update: Fister was on a pitch count of 75-85) That said, Fister’s seventh inning was his only one without a ground-ball out. He got two outs on fly balls to left, a well-hit double to left from John Jaso, then a hard-struck line drive out off the bat of Justin Smoak caught (again) by Andy Dirks in left.

If he had another 13-pitch inning to get through the eighth, he would’ve had 86 pitches heading into the ninth with the middle of the Mariners order coming up. Would he have been allowed to head towards 100 pitches in his first start back? Doubt it. That would’ve led to Dotel. The one difference is that Coke would have been available in the ninth once it became clear that Dotel didn’t have it, though that change still might not have happened until after Montero’s double.

The two questions on resting the bullpen:

  1. Why rest Valverde: He pitched all three games against the White Sox over the weekend, totaling 55 pitches. Under those circumstances, Leyland has made it clear that Valverde won’t pitch a fourth consecutive day.
  2. Why rest Benoit: That is arguably a more interesting question. He had pitched the previous two games against the White Sox, but he had rested the previous two days before that. He pitched on three consecutive days just twice last season, and the more recent of those stretches began with a one-pitch outing against the Angels. He had combined for 29 pitches over the last two days.
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