June 18th, 2012

Eldred, Tigers parting ways, reportedly to Japan

UPDATE: The move is now official. Brad Eldred has been released, the Tigers announced Tuesday afternoon, so that he can sign with the Hiroshima Carp.

Neither the Tigers nor Brad Eldred are saying anything at this point, but it’s clear that he and the Tigers organization are about to part ways.

“There’s nothing really to report yet,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said, “but I think we’ll know something tomorrow.”

Eldred was a last-minute scratch from the Mud Hens lineup, but was not injured. After the game, he was shaking hands with teammates, who were wishing him good luck as they passed by his half-empty locker.

At the same time, a report out of Japan said the Hiroshima Carp were attempting to acquire Eldred, whose hot start made him the talk of baseball earlier this season. It could be a release and a signing, or it could be a sale of the contract.

At this point, though, neither Eldred nor the Tigers are confirming that’s where he’s going. But they’re strongly hinting at it.

“What’s going on is probably better for me and my family,” Eldred said. “That’s obviously the way I’m going to go.”

Meanwhile, there was a new face bringing his equipment into the Mud Hens locker room. That was Jeff Baisley, who played 62 games this season with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, New Mexico, batting .284 with 15 doubles, eight homers and 41 RBIs in 62 games.

“He’ll be added tomorrow,” Nevin said.

Put it all together, and you can figure out what’s going down Tuesday.

“I don’t know if I’m allowed to say anything,” Eldred said. “I wish I could tell.”

Eldred made headlines with a torrid opening month in Toledo, batting .388 with 13 homers and 35 RBIs in 20 April games. That prompted the Tigers to purchase his contract April 27 after they released Brandon Inge. Manager Jim Leyland installed him as the designated hitter for three games against the Yankees, during which he went 2-for-13 with five strikeouts.

He was 3-for-16 with six strikeouts when the Tigers designated him for assignment the next Friday to make room for Delmon Young’s return from Major League Baseball’s restricted list. Eldred accepted the assignment rather than opt for free agency, which was his right.

Since then, Eldred has batted .263 (41-for-156) with 11 homers and 30 RBIs in 43 games, while striking out 52 times.

“It’s been great,” Eldred said. “I couldn’t really ask for a whole lot more — obviously, more opportunity, whatever you want to call it. But it kind of is what it is right now.”

Avila feels good after first rehab game

Alex Avila started off his three-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo Monday with five innings behind the plate and an 0-for-2 performance at the plate. More importantly, he came through feeling no pain in the right hamstring that forced him onto the 15-day disabled list a couple weeks ago.

“Felt good,” Avila said afterwards. “Just kind of what I expected as far as where I was at physically. Just trying to build up my stamina from not doing anything for a week and a half to catching, running, hitting, throwing, all that kind of stuff. It kind of feels like Spring Training a little bit. The first day, probably a little shocking to the body, but I feel really good.”

Avila nearly homered in his first at-bat in nearly two weeks, driving a ball off Lehigh Valley starter Tyler Cloyd to the warning track in right field, where it was caught. Cloyd struck him out swinging in the third inning.

“Saw some pitches, had some pretty decent swings, and I feel pretty good,” Avila said. “A couple more days of good at-bats and I’ll be ready to go.”

Behind the plate, he caught a rough start for lefty Andy Oliver, who gave up four runs on seven hits over six innings. Much of the damage came in the first three frames, including a ball that sailed to the backstop with nobody on.

It left him on his toes, but not moving wildly.

“If you remember right, he re-aggravated the injury [two weeks ago] kind of blocking a ball and moving around the plate. Fortunately, Andy threw a few wide ones and he was able to do that today,” Mud Hens manager Phil Nevin said. “But he looked fine. He didn’t feel any pain, any weakness.”

Avila is scheduled to play five innings again for the Hens on Tuesday, then serve as the designated hitter on Wednesday. If he gets through that OK, the Tigers will activate him from the DL on Thursday in time to catch that afternoon’s game against the Cardinals.

“I knew coming into today from what I was doing in Detroit that my hamstring was good,” Avila said, “and I just wanted to make sure I could get it to where I could go 100 percent not thinking about it. The reason why I’m here early is because I could get to that point. Now it’s just kind of getting to a nice rhythm at the plate and seeing some pitches, taking some balls off the chest, building up some bruises and stuff like that. That’s what these games are going to be about.”

He’ll be catching Jacob Turner, who will be coming up from Toledo as well to make the start for the Tigers.