Results tagged ‘ Alex Avila ’

Tigers avoid arbitration with Avila

The Tigers have avoided arbitration hearings for another year, reaching a deal with Alex Avila on a one-year, $4.35 million contract that includes a club option for 2015.

The deal finishes the Tigers’ arbitration dealings just before hearings were scheduled to begin for players next week. Avila and the Tigers exchanged salary figures two weeks ago after struggling to reach an agreement. Avila expressed confidence a week ago that the two sides would reach an agreement before hearings would be scheduled next week. It took some creative contract work, but they finished it up late Friday.

Avila will make a base salary of $4.15 million this season. If he makes the All-Star team, wins a Silver Slugger Award (he did both in 2011) or finishes in the top 15 in MVP balloting, his $5.4 million option for 2015 will automatically vest. If not, the Tigers will decide whether to pick up the option or buy it out for $200,000 (hence the $4.35 million guaranteed). A buyout would leave Avila eligible for arbitration one more time before becoming a free agent after the 2015 season.

The deal also reportedly includes escalators that would bump up the salary on Avila’s option if he has a high number of plate appearances.

Avila made $2.95 million in 2013. He filed for a $5.3 million salary two weeks ago, with the Tigers countering with a $3.75 million offer. The new deal put the base salary closer to the team offer, but offers the enticement of the second year. If Avila is an All-Star and a Silver Slugger winner in 2014, a $5.4 million salary should be a decent deal.

Avila batted a career-low .227 last year with 11 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .693 OPS. Within those numbers, however, were two distinctly different half-seasons. His .177 average before the All-Star break was the lowest among AL players with at least 200 plate appearances. His .303 batting average after the break was the 16th highest, and his .876 OPS ranked just outside the AL’s top 10, despite missing time in August with a concussion.

Though Avila’s father is Tigers vice president and assistant general manager Al Avila, the family and the Tigers have maintained a stance that the elder Avila would not be involved in contract situations involving his son. Team legal counsel John Westhoff handles negotiations with input from team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski.

“A lot of work went into it,” said Jim Murray, who along with fellow Excel Sports Management agent Matt Laird negotiated the deal. “I credit David, John and their staff for being open-minded and as professional as can be throughout the entire process. It was a positive result for all involved.”

V-Mart at catcher? Not likely, Leyland says, but possible

Jim Leyland returned to town Friday afternoon still not sure whether he’ll have catcher Alex Avila available to play Saturday night in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. He also wasn’t sure who might catch if Avila can’t go.

He has not ruled out Victor Martinez.

“That has been thought about, yes,” Leyland said on a Friday conference call.

It’s a possibility the Tigers have kept open all along for the postseason, but for the World Series, not the ALCS. If the Tigers advance, they’ll lose the designated hitter for Games 3-5 in the National League city, either St. Louis or Los Angeles. Martinez, 7-for-18 in this series and 16-for-38 in the postseason, would have to find a position in the field in those games, and he caught three times down the stretch in the regular season without any problems to be prepared.

This is different. Martinez, whose days as even a semi-regular catcher ended with knee surgery last year, could bat in the DH spot in Boston. However, Avila’s absence could leave Leyland deciding whether it’s best to catch Brayan Pena and leave everyone else alone, or catch Martinez, move Miguel Cabrera to DH and play one of his utility infielders at third.

Leyland isn’t ready to take the discussion that far.

“It would be an option, let me put it that way, that you could DH Miggy and catch Victor and then obviously play Santiago or Donnie Kelly at third,” Leyland said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen but it would be an option if Alex were not able to play.”

As for Avila, Leyland said he was still dealing with some soreness in his left knee when the Tigers boarded their team plane for Boston on Friday. They won’t make an evaluation until Saturday.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Leyland said. “I have no idea. I’m hoping Alex Avila can catch. That decision will be way down the road yet.”

Avila begins rehab assignment for Toledo

Alex Avila began his rehab assignment Thursday night for Triple-A Toledo, going 0-for-2 with a walk at the plate and catching three innings behind the plate for the Mud Hens in a 5-2 loss at Louisville.

Avila, batting second, flew out to center field in the opening inning before drawing a two-out walk in the second. He was called out on strikes to end the top of the fourth, then was replaced by Ronny Paulino in the bottom of the inning. Manager Jim Leyland talked Wednesday about Avila catching six innings for the Mud Hens on Thursday, but he cautioned that was far from an official plan. The fact that Avila stepped to the plate in the fourth strongly suggests the Tigers wanted to get him three plate appearances and just enough catching time to make sure he was OK on his first day catching in a week and a half since going on the concussion DL.

Avila is expected to catch again for the Hens in Louisville Friday night.

Delayed concussion symptoms, lingering concerns

The day after Alex Avila left the game in Cleveland with dizziness and nausea, I ran into a scout at the airport who had watched the series. He said what several team officials and most any player who has been a teammate of Avila for a decent amount of time has said: Avila takes an amazing number of foul balls off his mask and body. He watches a lot of other teams, and he couldn’t offer up one who takes more punishment.

Teammates who have spent their entire career alongside Avila and teammates who came in from other organizations have said much the same thing. They were saying much the same thing Sunday as Avila dealt with more concussion symptoms. And as players talked, there was a growing concern for Avila, the person as well as the player.

“Obviously, I’m concerned for him,” longtime teammate Justin Verlander said. “I think I’m more concerned personally for him. I’m just really glad the game that he caught [Saturday], he didn’t take one of those patented Alex Avila foul tips right off the face mask. He was able to answer all the questions and he passed his tests, so that’s why he was in the ballgame, but I guess he had some symptoms pop up today. …

“You guys have seen him. He’s taken a beating. He has. Seven days could be really good.”

Scherzer expressed much the same concern Thursday night after the foul tip that caught him in the mask.

There are statistics for a lot of events in baseball, but none for the number of foul balls a catcher takes off his body. You can look at some advanced stats for the pitching staff and try to get clues, but nothing concrete. For instance, Tigers pitchers allow balls put in play on just 37.7 percent of swings that opposing hitters take, the lowest percentage of any Major League pitching staff this year. At the same time, hitters miss on 24.7 percent of swings they take against the Tigers, highest in the big leagues. That adds up to 62.4 percent of swings, leaving 27.6 percent for foul balls. That’s not necessarily a Major League high. The Twins, for instance, have seen 43.4 of opposing swings put the ball in play, but just 18.1 percent of swings miss. However, they’ve drawn more than 300 fewer swings than Detroit pitchers.

Or to use the raw numbers, Tigers pitchers entered Sunday having thrown 17,090 pitches this year. Hitters had swung at 7889 of those, missed on 1945 and put 2974 in play. That leaves 2970 swings for foul balls. Some of them go into the seats, some go into the dugout, some stay in the field, and some obviously go off the catcher.

Victor Martinez was a longtime catcher in Cleveland and Boston before his knee injuries forced his move to DH. He knows the catcher and the position, and he sounded quite concerned.

“I’ve never been around people that suffer concussions. At the same time, I have never been with somebody who gets hit as Alex does, man,” Martinez said. “It’s amazing. He just … ”

Martinez paused in mid-sentence.

“It’s not good, man. It’s tough,” he concluded.

Verlander’s point is a good one: Had Avila taken another foul tip off the mask, who knows what would’ve happened?

That sets up the question everyone will wonder out: How was Avila cleared to play? Avila said Friday he passed the tests, and that took the issue too seriously to cheat on them. He underwent a CT scan in Cleveland and apparently passed that. However, he also said he felt terrible after leaving Thursday’s game. He also was initially in Friday’s starting lineup before he had the game off under recommendation. On the flip side, Miguel Cabrera said he saw Avila in the clubhouse Sunday morning — their stalls were next to each other — and didn’t notice anything unusual.

“I saw him,” Cabrera said, “but he looked alright.”

I asked Will Carroll, the sports injury expert who now works at Bleacher Report, about concussion symptoms and Avila’s situation. He confirmed what several medical web sites say: Concussion symptoms can come on days after an incident, sometimes weeks. Other times, the initial symptoms can go unnoticed, including by the person involved.

Whether that’s what happened here or whether Avila tried to play through any symptoms might be tough to clear up, just like quantifying the damage he takes on foul balls. But people know what they see, and they’re concerned right now.

“You have to worry because that’s dangerous,” Cabrera said. “He has to take care of that. Hopefully he can feel better.”

Avila examined, cleared to play tonight

The news out of Detroit was good for catcher Alex Avila, who was examined this morning in Detroit for a possible concussion and cleared to play tonight in New York. He’s on his way to the Big Apple now. 

While the Tigers flew to New York last night, Avila returned home for further examination after leaving Thursday’s game against the Indians with symptoms of a possible concussion. He took a foul tip in the fourth inning and told manager Jim Leyland and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand initially that he was fine, then complained of dizziness and nausea an inning later.

No word yet whether Avila will be in the starting lineup.

Brookens takes blame for Hunter missing cycle

For the second time in July, Torii Hunter missed out on the cycle by one measly hit. Instead of a single, as he missed July 6, he needed a triple Wednesday. He very nearly got it.

Maybe he should have.

Hunter gave it his best shot in the seventh inning dropping a ball into fair territory near the right-field corner. With Alex Avila on the bases, however, third base coach Tom Brookens held him up at third base, something Hunter didn’t anticipate until he was already around second base and the throw was coming in.

Hunter was caught off second base, leaving him with a second double. 

“I told the guys in the dugout, ‘If I hit the ball in the outfield, I’m running no matter what,'” Hunter said. “And I took off running, and I saw Avila slowing down at third. I was like, ‘Forget it. I’m going to keep going.’ I kept running and the non-selfish me just stopped, trying to go back. I should’ve just kept running until Avila had to take it on the chin.”

After the inning, Brookens was spotted in the dugout talking with Hunter. After the game, Brookens confirmed he wasn’t aware he had a chance to hit for the cycle.

“Had I realized, I probably would’ve sent Alex, knowing he would probably be out, but given him the chance,” Brookens said.

Avila, who apparently is dealing with a hip injury the Tigers had kept quiet until somebody spotted him hobbling during the game, said he would’ve done his best to score.

“I was running hard. I couldn’t go any faster than that,” Avila said. “I thought I got a good enough jump off the ball because I knew [Jayson] Werth wasn’t going to be able to catch it. I thought maybe I had a good enough jump where I was able to score, but as soon as I saw Brookie put the stop sign, as fast as I was going it’s not very hard to stop.”

Even on a play like that, though, Hunter could’ve still been credited with just a double if Avila had been thrown out at the plate.

Hunter has never hit for the cycle in the big leagues. He had one in the minors.

“That’s an individual goal, an individual achievement,” Hunter said. “A lot of guys aren’t looking for that. The guys in the dugout knew.” 

Seven eligible Tigers file for arbitration

It’s a formality, but still worth noting that the seven Tigers eligible for arbitration all filed on Tuesday. The list includes three members of rotation (Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello), two members of the starting lineup (Alex Avila, Austin Jackson), lefty Phil Coke and outfielder Brennan Boesch.

Basically, what it means is that none of them have apparently reached deals yet to avoid arbitration. There’s still plenty of time for that, but the next big milepost in the process will come on Friday, when they’ll exchange arbitration figures with the team. That’s usually the step that gets both sides moving towards a deal, because it provides a range to use to find a middle ground. From there, the two sides have until at least Feb. 4 to negotiate before hearings begin taking place.

The Tigers have not had to go to an arbitration ruling since Dave Dombrowski took over as GM in 2002. They’ve come close a couple times, but usually they settle soon after the two sides exchange numbers.

Leyland uncertain about Avila return next weekend

Among the many injury updates Friday afternoon at Comerica Park was a very cautious report on Alex Avila, who just began doing baseball activities again today with batting practice and some early work.

Basically, manager Jim Leyland said, they’re trying to get an idea how far along he is, and how long he’s realistically going to be out.

“We’re evaluating him today as far as where his hamstring’s at, basically going by what he’s telling us, how he feels,” head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said Friday afternoon. “He’s going through agilities, he’s going to do some running today, going to swing the bat. He’s out there swinging the bat. … We’ll get a feel for him from an activity perspective today.”

What that means for his timetable is unclear.

“We like to shoot for Pittsburgh [next weekend],” Leyland about a return, “but I don’t know if that’s possible or not. A lot of positive stuff’s got to happen.”

Simply doing any baseball activity is a step up for Avila at this point. He spent the road trip watching them on TV.

“It’s been driving me crazy,” Avila said. “I definitely have more of an appreciation for Skip and the coaches to sit and watch. I was more nervous watching than playing.”

Avila could see minimal stay on DL

Alex Avila went on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday afternoon, and sounded Wednesday night like he doesn’t expect to be on the DL much longer than that. Asked how long he should need for recovery, Avila’s answer was pretty short.

“The doctor said 10-14 days,” he said.

The MRI exam taken after Tuesday’s game showed the injury was “a little bit worse than I thought it was,” Avila said, but still nothing worse than a strain. That’s huge news for the Tigers, who will have Bryan Holaday handling the duties behind the plate for the next few days until Gerald Laird can return.

Avila will not travel with the Tigers on their upcoming road trip to Cincinnati and Chicago.

“When you go on the DL you have no choice [but to sit and heal],” he said. “That’s the bottom line right there. You’ve got to take that time, get healthy and take it from there. In this game you’re going to play with injuries, and some nagging ones, but there are some that you just can’t play with. Obviously I’ve dealt with injuries and things like that the past few years, but some things don’t allow you to be productive or allow you to play at a level you can be proud of every day.”

Avila leaves game, likely headed to DL

Alex Avila’s return behind the plate was supposed to be the best news on the Tigers’ injury front. It lasted just five innings before his right hamstring tightened up again.

Now, the Tigers and Avila await the results of an MRI exam. Judging from a report out of Toledo from the Toledo Blade’s John Wagner late Tuesday night that Bryan Holaday is being called up, a report that another source confirmed, a stint on the disabled list appears to be imminent.

“I checked with him before the game,” Leyland said. “I try not to play guys if I’m suspicious. Maybe in the back of my mind I was a little bit suspicious, but when he came in here today I said ‘How are you doing?’ and he said, ‘I better be in the lineup,’ and I said, ‘Well, you’re in the lineup.’

“We found out it was probably a mistake on my part. If you want to blame somebody, blame me for that.”

Avila missed the previous two games over the weekend against the Yankees after waking up Saturday morning with a tight hamstring. He spent Monday’s off-day receiving treatment on the injury at Comerica Park and said he was ready to go.

One big reason Avila sat over the weekend was the worry that playing and tweaking the hamstring would cause a worse injury and a longer absence. This was pretty much the scenario that played out.

“I was hoping that, with the way I was feeling and the work I was doing, that I was going to be able to play, maybe not at 100 percent but enough to be fine,” Avila said. “It just wasn’t the case. Just got to figure it out.”

Avila threw out Shin-Soo Choo trying to advance to second on a pitch in the dirt to end the fifth inning, but was seen hobbling as he made his way back in the dugout. He promptly went down the tunnel towards the clubhouse.

Realistically, though, Avila said he’d been dealing with the tightness for most of the game.

“It was pretty tight, probably from the second inning on,” Avila said. “I started feeling it. It never really got loose. On that [throw], I really felt it pull and figured that right about there, I couldn’t really push it anymore.”

Gerald Laird, who also missed the previous two games with a tight right hamstring, replaced Avila to begin the sixth inning. The Tigers still have Omir Santos on the roster, so they’re not in an emergency scenario.

Still, they’re in a tough enough situation that Laird was trotting gingerly around the bases when he reached in the ninth inning.

“I just wanted to make sure I’m about it,” Laird said, pointing out that he wasn’t the potential tying run.

Holaday’s call-up will trigger a shuffle of the Tigers’ catching prospects, with highly-valued catching prospect Rob Brantly heading to Toledo. James McCann, last year’s top Tigers draft pick, is expected to take over at Erie after being called up from Class A Lakeland.