Results tagged ‘ Alex Avila ’

Avila leaves game after foul tip off mask/nose

The Tigers, who have battled a rash of injuries over the last two weeks, had another from an unexpected player. Catcher Alex Avila left Thursday’s series finale against the Red Sox after taking a third-inning foul tip hard off his catching mask that busted up his nose.

Avila was pulled from the game for precautionary reasons, the Tigers announced later. An examination from doctors revealed no symptoms of a concussion.

Avila is known for taking a slew of foul tips and pitches off his body and enduring, earning him a reputation as one of the toughest catchers in the Majors. That toughness allowed him to catch 133 games last year, making him a fixture down the stretch after his backup, Victor Martinez, suffered a knee injury.

That said, Avila was clearly rattled when Ryan Sweeney fouled off a 96 mph fastball from Max Scherzer went up off Sweeney’s bat and into Avila’s mask before rolling.

Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand immediately attended to Avila as manager Jim Leyland joined him out from the dugout. A broadcast replay caught blood streaming down from Avila’s nose as Rand attended to him.

After a lengthy discussion, Avila walked off the field on his own power, with Rand and Leyland joining him. Avila’s backup, Gerald Laird, replaced him behind the plate.

Ironically, the Tigers called up a third catcher, Omir Santos, on Wednesday. He was brought up to allow Leyland to use one of his other catchers at designated hitter without worrying about what to do if his other catcher was injured. He didn’t envision this kind of scenario.

Avila is lone Tigers Silver Slugger winner

Alex Avila missed out on a Gold Glove award. He will gladly take a Silver Slugger instead. The Tigers, too, will take a win over Mike Napoli.

With a big first season as a full-time starting catcher, Avila took the mantle for the American League’s best offensive catcher from the oft-injured Joe Mauer. The All-Star beat out Napoli, Matt Wieters and others to earn the Silver Slugger award at his position, the only Tiger to do so this season.

Avila is the first Tiger to win the Silver Slugger at catcher since 2004, Ivan Rodriguez’s first season in Detroit. He’s the first catcher other than Mauer to win the honor since 2007, when Jorge Posada won it.

“To be considered the best offensive catcher is great,” Avila told MLB.com Wednesday night in a text message, “and it’s an achievement I’m very proud of.”

It wasn’t necessarily an easy decision for AL managers and coaches. Though Avila earned the All-Star start at catcher on his first-half roll, and never had the huge falloff that some might have expected, he also had to deal with catchers who heated up down the stretch. None got hotter than Napoli, who hit .383 with 18 home runs and 42 RBIs after the All-Star, including .429 with eight homers in September. Though Napoli made just 57 starts behind the plate, he played there more than he did at any other position.

Wieters, who beat out Avila for the Gold Glove as announced Tuesday night, also made his case based on power. He homered 12 times in August and September and posted an .840 OPS over the season’s second half.

In the end, though, nobody showed the consistency that Avila displayed, surprisingly so for a 24-year-old dealing with the wear and tear of more starts than any other AL catcher. He actually built on his first-half numbers by hitting for a higher average, near-identical slugging percentage and a higher OPS after the break.

Avila, ironically, is a friend of Napoli.

“We’re from the same area in south Florida,” Avila said, “and he had a great season, but it doesn’t make it any better. Being a Silver Slugger is pretty good on its own.”

Tiger catchers have won 10 of the 32 Silver Sluggers since the award began in 1980. Half of those went to Lance Parrish, who added a sixth as an Angel in 1990. Rodriguez, Mickey Tettleton and Matt Nokes also won at least one Silver Slugger in a Detroit uniform.

Detroit had three other realistic candidates for Silver Sluggers, but all lost out in what looked like crowded fields and tough decisions for managers and coaches. While reigning Silver Slugger first baseman Miguel Cabrera won a batting title with a late-season tear, it came too late to sway voters to choose him over Adrian Gonzalez.

Jhonny Peralta led all AL shortstops in batting average and OPS, but his former teammate in Cleveland, Asdrubal Cabrera, had the advantage in hits, RBIs and runs scored. That earned Cabrera the vote, making him the first Indian to win a Silver Slugger since Grady Sizemore in 2008 and the first Cleveland infielder since Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar in 2000.

Though designated hitter isn’t a defensive position, it’s a Silver Slugger award, and it pitted Victor Martinez against former Red Sox teammate David Ortiz this year. Martinez had the higher batting average, finishing fourth in the league at .330, but Ortiz had better run production numbers to win his fifth Silver Slugger at DH. Those two will likely have a similar competition going when AL media members vote for the outstanding DH award.

Tigers shut out on Gold Glove awards

Austin Jackson’s Fielding Bible award in center field will have to do as the Tigers’ defensive honor for the season. Jackson and catcher Alex Avila were left winless when the Gold Glove awards were announced late Tuesday night.

Jackson and Avila were among three finalists listed at their respective positions by ESPN2 in a press release promoting the special on the network to announce the awards. But Avila lost out to Baltimore’s Matt Wieters, while Jackson finished behind Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury.

Major League managers and coaches vote on Gold Glove honors.

While Avila’s day-in, day-out work earned him a good amount of respect, Wieters had the statistical advantage of fewer passed balls and wild pitches on his watch while throwing out a higher percentage of would-be basestealers. Ellsbury and Jackson were very comparable on traditional statistics, though Jackson had an impressive resume in more specialized stats.

Avila still has a chance at an end-of-season award. The Silver Slugger awards, which lean on the offensive side at each position, will be announced Wednesday night at 6pm ET on MLB Network. Avila and Mike Napoli both have solid cases at catcher, while first base should be an interesting debate between Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez and Paul Konerko. Jhonny Peralta and his former Cleveland teammate Asdrubal Cabrera are candidates at shortstop.

Jackson’s a Gold Glove finalist, Fielding Bible winner

For the first time that I can remember, the Gold Glove awards have a list of finalists, which not coincidentally sets up Tuesday night’s Gold Glove special on ESPN2. The side effect is that is sets up who has a realistic chance to win an award that doesn’t always follow the expected candidates.

In the Tigers’ case, they have two chances. Austin Jackson is one of three finalists for AL center field honors. Alex Avila is the same at AL catcher.

Because the outfield Gold Glove awards recognize center, left and right fielders separately, rather than three outfielders in general, Jackson has some of the toughest competition of any AL position. Jacoby Ellsbury and Peter Bourjos are two of the fastest men in the AL, and they use that speed to their advantage in center. Bourjos, in particular, showed a gift for running down drives into the gaps.

So, of course, did Jackson. And as the Fielding Bible awards suggest, he gets to way more balls than the average center fielder.

A day before the Gold Gloves are announced, ACTA sports came out with its annual honors to recognize the best Major League defender at each position in a given season. The Fielding Bible award in center field went to Jackson.

Unlike Gold Gloves, which are voted on by Major League coaches, the Fielding Bible award weigh heavily towards advanced defensive stats. Winners are decided by a 10-person panel that includes Fielding Bible co-author John Dewan, statistical analysis pioneer Bill James, MLB Network great Peter Gammons, acclaimed columnist and author Joe Posnanski, and former Major League outfielder Doug Glanville.

In the latest release of the Bill James Handbook, Dewan wrote that Jackson’s advantage was in the stats.

“He topped all center fielders with 21 Runs Saved in 2010, but Austin Jackson had to do it even better (with 22 Runs Saved) in 2011 to earn his first Fielding Bible Award,” Dewan wrote. “Jackson has made 63 more plays than an average center fielder over the last two years. That’s an incredible total. It’s on the plays over his head that AJ really excels (43 of the 63). Making 43 more catches than an average center fielder on balls hit deep is where those lofty Runs Saved totals come in, as he is saving doubles and triples when he makes these catches.”

Jackson got as many first-place votes (three) as Arizona’s Chris Young, but the difference was the five second-place votes he received, compared with just two for Young. The only vote that put Jackson outside the top three was something called the Tango Fan Poll.

Avila finished eighth in voting among Major League catchers, a category won by Matt Wieters. Not coincidentally, he’s one of Avila’s fellow finalists for the AL Gold Glove, along with A.J. Pierzynski (???). Avila threw out just under a third of would-be basestealers (40-for-125) while posting a .995 fielding percentage (five errors in 1,018 total chances). He was charged with seven passed balls, and Tigers pitchers threw 56 wild pitches with him behind the plate.

Wieters threw out 34-of-92 would-be basestealers, allowed one passed ball, and watched his pitchers deliver 25 wild pitches.

Among those left out among Gold Glove finalists was Jhonny Peralta, who statistically had a very underrated season at shortstop. But so was Texas’ Elvis Andrus. Erick Aybar, Asdrubal Cabrera and J.J. Hardy are the three finalists, though Peralta statistically had a pretty good case for a better defensive season than Cabrera.

Verlander, Avila on Sporting News AL all-star team

The first end-of-season test for Justin Verlander’s MVP candidacy comes out Friday, when Sporting News names its MLB Player of the Year. On Thursday, though, he received the more obvious honor of the starting pitching spot on the magazine’s AL All-Star team. He was the only unanimous selection on the AL side, according to the article on the Sporting News website.

Voting took place among 289 players, 23 managers and 55 Major League executives, so getting a unanimous selection isn’t easy. Matt Kemp was the only one to get it on the NL side, which means somebody didn’t vote for Clayton Kershaw despite his lofty stats.

Alex Avila also made the AL team at catcher. Somewhat surprisingly, Miguel Cabrera didn’t get the nod at first base, losing out to Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez. Keep in mind, though, that voting took place in September, with most ballots turned in before Cabrera went on his final-week tear and before the Red Sox collapse was complete.

Also surprising, as others have pointed out: Jose Valverde didn’t get the relief pitcher honor. That went to Mariano Rivera. Did the Big Potato’s save celebrations turn off some players around voting time, or did they go with the Hall of Famer?

Also, in less of a shocker but still intriguing, Jhonny Peralta lost out to his former teammate in Cleveland, Asdrubal Cabrera, for shortstop honors.

Wrapping up the Tigers’ injuries

You had a feeling, didn’t you, that whenever the Tigers’ season ended, you would be hearing a more up-front report on all the Tigers’ injuries. And for the most part, we got that last night. Yet somehow, it wasn’t as bad as expected.

Alex Avila opened up a bit about the shape of his knees.

“I’ve had tendinitis building up in my [left] knee since July from a sprain that I had,” Avila said. “I felt I could continue to play with it, and I did. Without the rest, it just gets a little bit worse. And then, when I stepped on [Robinson] Cano’s foot [in the Division Series], everything kind of resurfaced after that.”

Playing through that, he said, brought on problems in the other knee, the right knee, because he was compensating. He underwent a cortisone shot during the playoffs that helped.

Surprisingly, though, he said that the team medical staff doesn’t think there’s anything that would require surgery.

“If there was anything structurally wrong,” he said, “I probably wouldn’t be able to catch. That was the reason why I kept playing, that I knew it couldn’t get any worse. I just had to deal with discomfort. Just get the MRI to make sure, and with rest, I’ll be good as new.”

As for Victor Martinez, manager Jim Leyland said he had “three or four things going on,” from the knee sprain in August to the toe injury that had to be drained to the intercostal strain. The only one that would seemingly be a major concern going into the offseason would be the knee, though we didn’t get any definitive word on that.

The injury you didn’t expect that we learned about last night was Miguel Cabrera. He injured his right shoulder when he tried to run over Mike Napoli at home plate in Game 4.

“It was all muscle,” Cabrera said, alleviating any concern he popped his shoulder out. It might have been more around the triceps.

Obviously, it didn’t affect him at the plate, where he closed out his season last night with a two-homer game, but he said he couldn’t throw. That explained why his warmups between innings were different.

He’s going to get it checked out, just to be on the safe side.

“I have to talk to a doctor,” Cabrera said. “They took good care of me with treatment. They did a good job.”

After 14 innings, what’s next for Tigers

The challenge when a team loses a game like this is usually mental and physical. Mentally, the Tigers seemed to be handling it fine. It was a lost opportunity to gain another game on their AL Central lead, for sure, but they weren’t terribly worried.

“It was a heckuva game, a terrific game,” Jim Leyland said.

Said Daniel Schlereth: We came out on the losing end tonight, but you know what, that’s baseball. That happens. We’re going to sleep on this and get rid of this game. We’ll be back here ready to win tomorrow — er, I’m sorry, later on today.”

Then there’s the physical toll, which make take a little longer to determine.

With Victor Martinez’s knee uncertain for catching duties, Alex Avila caught all 14 innings Tuesday. He said he’ll be ready for Wednesday’s game like it was any other.

“I’m pretty tired,” he said, “but I’ll be ready to go.”

Leyland wasn’t quite so sure.

“That’s one I’ll have to think about,” he said. “That’s a tough one.”

His bullpen might be another issue. The only reliever who wasn’t used was closer Jose Valverde, and he can’t exactly be an innings-eater. Everyone else pitched at least four outs except for David Pauley, who took the loss in the 14th.

The good news for the Tigers is that they have Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander pitching the next two games, so they’re not expecting heavy use out of their bullpen. But even if Porcello gives them seven strong innings, they’re going to have to find someone to pitch the eighth, and he likely won’t be a fresh arm.

Considering it was around 2 in the morning, Leyland wanted to sleep on it before deciding anything. He’ll have to sleep fast, even with a night game Wednesday.

We came out on the losing end tonight, but you know what, that’s baseball. That happens. We’re going to sleep on this and get rid of this game. We’ll be back here ready to win tomorrow — er, I’m sorry, later on today.”

Leyland defends lineups, lefties

With the way the Tigers rallied back to win Friday night, it was almost an afterthought when manager Jim Leyland brought up the question about his lineup usage. But the fact that Alex Avila homered for the third time in his last three games became a reference point for him, so he had admittedly overused him for a stretch this year.

“You lose when you have your regulars in there, too,” Leyland said. “That’s what a lot of times, people don’t understand. They think when you don’t play your regulars, you lose, but if you play your regulars every day, you win. It doesn’t work that way. You lose no matter who you play sometimes up here.

“I’m not making excuses. I’m just saying I’m going to have to watch [Avila], but I think he’s freshened up a little bit. But like I said, it’s my fault, because I played him into the ground prior to the [All-Star] break.”

That was a longer-term decision. The short-term decision he made Friday concerned when to get Rick Porcello out of the game. When Royals rookie third baseman Mike Moustakas came up with a 3-for-42 mark against left-handed pitchers this year, that was his time.

“I feel bad for Rick,” Leyland said. “He deserved a win tonight. He pitched tremendous. But that’s the way it goes. We got the win, and that’s the most important thing. But I did feel bad for him. …

“They had a little momentum going. The stage was set. But I chose to go to the left-hander because the young kid’s hitting .071 against left-handed pitching. Didn’t work. Wasn’t very smart. But I’d do it again if they get the momentum going like that. Late in games, when a team gets momentum going, the guy’s later into the game, even though [Porcello's] pitch count was fantastic.”

The numbers were impossible to ignore. The downfall was that Phil Coke made what Leyland called a “terrible” pitch, a two-strike curveball that Moustakas was able to pull inside first base and produce an RBI single.

What to make of Penny, Martinez

Brad Penny and Victor Martinez have a failure to communicate (Getty Images)

The day the Tigers introduced newly-signed Brad Penny to local media on a conference call back in February, Penny went out of his way to praise Victor Martinez, with whom he had worked in Boston two years earlier:

“What I liked about Victor is he was never negative in any way,” Penny said. “If you’re struggling and he comes out to the mound and talks to you, it’s all positive. I mean, you can see he just knows you’re going to get out of it and do good. You can see it in his eyes. I mean, like I said before, what a great teammate. You guys are going to be really impressed with him as a person, not only as a player.”

On Thursday, after Penny gave up seven runs on nine hits over 3 1/3 innings, he was trying to defuse what became a very public disagreement between him and Martinez on the mound in the middle of his fourth and final inning.

“He hadn’t caught me in a while,” Penny said. “It had nothing to do with pitch selection or anything like that. With a runner on second, I like come set taking signs. That way, the hitter can’t look at second base and anything there. I’ve pitched my whole career that way and he didn’t want me to do it. I know there’s no other way for me. I guess it’s a habit. It’s natural. I’ve done it my whole career. It’s not that big of a deal. Me and Victor have been friends for a while now and that happens when you’re competing.

“It’s not that he wasn’t used to catching me. That had nothing to do with pitch selection or how I pitched today. It was totally the complete opposite of that. It was just when I was coming set taking signs.”

Martinez, for his part, wasn’t talking about it.

The calendar shows Penny has a point: Martinez hadn’t caught him since June 26 against Arizona. Alex Avila had caught Penny’s past four starts until Thursday. That said, pitchers and catchers have disagreements around baseball, and very few of them result in them yelling in each other’s direction.

There’s no sign of any escalating problem between Penny and Martinez, or Penny and anybody. But it seems entirely safe to read a frustrated Penny. If that back-and-forth didn’t show enough, Penny’s handing of the ball to Lloyd McClendon before he even reached the mound to make the pitching change two batters later probably did. He has taken a beating his last two starts, and Thursday’s loss saw him give up his second-highest total of extra-base hits this season. His ERA rose from 4.51 to 4.89.

Penny has had good and bad second-half numbers over the years, so there’s nothing consistent to read there. But his location issues over the last couple starts have been problematic. He had the time to work those out last start, and he eventually settled down to go seven innings. His problems in the fourth weren’t going to allow him that luxury this time. His frustration level Thursday was unlike anything he had shown all year.

No team chemistry problems have been obvious; in fact, Penny has been anything but isolated in the clubhouse. Still, it’ll be interesting to see how this incident plays out in his next few starts. The Tigers can’t catch Avila every game, and Martinez has caught Penny more than he has caught any other starter. If Martinez and Penny don’t work together for a while, he’ll have to catch Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello or the fifth starter, because Avila and Justin Verlander simply work together too well to break up.

Four Tigers All-Stars, possibly another

Alex Avila’s campaign for All-Star votes, as led by teammate Justin Verlander, paid off in the end. In his first year as the Tigers’ everyday catcher, he’ll be starting behind the plate for the American League in the All-Star Game.

His starting nod highlights four All-Stars for the Tigers, the second time in three years they’ve had that total. Miguel Cabrera, Jose Valverde and Justin Verlander will join Avila in Phoenix for the Midsummer Classic July 12.

Victor Martinez will have the chance to join them if he can win the All-Star Game Final Vote. Balloting for that began today at MLB.com and runs through Thursday.

For all but one of them, it’s a return to the All-Star Game. For Avila, the first time might well be the sweetest. He becomes the first Tiger voted by fans into the All-Star lineup since 2007, when Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco all made it. Miguel Cabrera started last year’s game at first base, but did so after Justin Morneau was scratched due to injury.

Avila led all American League catchers in almost every major offensive category, short of home runs. Still, Russell Martin’s hot opening month as a New York Yankee earned him a slew of early votes once fan balloting began in April and May.

The Tigers soon picked up Avila’s cause. Then came Verlander, whose work with Avila as his catcher has resulted in a no-hitter and several close calls already this year. Verlander took to Twitter and just about any other medium he could find to try to encourage fans to vote Avila.

Avila slowly began catching up Martin, but still trailed by more than 400,000 votes as of the last balloting update earlier this week. But Avila garnered the vast majority of the votes at catcher this week before online balloting closed Thursday night.

“Thanks to all the non-Tigers fans who chose the best player,” Verlander wrote Sunday afternoon on his Twitter account. “To all the Tigers fans, thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Best city, best fans.”

Verlander likely won’t get the chance to catch him in the game itself. Though he was an obvious choice for players to vote onto the AL pitching staff, he won’t be eligible to pitch in the Midsummer Classic if he starts for the Tigers at Kansas City next Sunday to close out the season’s first half, as he’s scheduled to do.

With an 11-3 record, 2.32 ERA and just 88 hits over 135 2/3 innings, he would’ve been a strong candidate to start in the game. Still, he’ll be recognized with his third straight All-Star selection, and his fourth overall.

Cabrera makes the All-Star team for the sixth time, the second time as a Tiger. His .329 average entering Sunday ranked third in the AL to go with 17 homers and 56 RBIs. Valverde, 19-for-19 in save chances entering Sunday, is a three-time All-Star.

Verlander, Valverde and Cabrera were all All-Stars last season. It’s the first time three Tigers earned back-to-back All-Star selections since 1985 and ’86, when Lou Whitaker, Lance Parrish and Willie Hernandez made the teams.

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