Results tagged ‘ Alex Avila ’

Leyland makes final pitch for Avila

Tigers manager Jim Leyland has tried to stay out of the All-Star voting process. He thinks it comes down to a popularity contest and stuffing ballots. That said, he basically asked Tigers fans to do the same for his catcher.

“I’ve never really got into that, but I think it’s a no-brainer, and I hope that they do get behind him,” Leyland said. “It would be an absolute shame, in my opinion, if Alex Avila’s not on the All-Star team. That would be a shame. He deserves it, so I hope they stuff ballots, do whatever they want. I know I’m contradicting myself, but it would be a shame if he’s not on the team.”

Online balloting is the only way to vote now, and it ends tonight at 11:59 p.m. ET at MLB.com. The latest results as of Thursday afternoon suggest a late rally for Avila votes in recent hours, with close to 90 percent of votes over the last day going in his favor. If that holds, then it’s a question of how big the final-day vote is.

About that Avila hit …

If you thought Alex Avila saw home run on that eighth-inning drive off the left-field wall and didn’t run it out like an extra-base hit, you would be right.

“When I hit it, I thought it would either be over [the left fielder’s] head or out,” Avila said, “and I looked down. They say you’re never supposed to take your eye off the ball when you’re running, and I looked down and hit first base. And I looked up, and he was throwing it in, and by then I was gone. I was going to be out no matter what. I guess it just caromed right to him. That was a heckuva throw. He threw a bullet in there.”

It was an odd play for Avila, who has managed to run his way into some extra bases this year (two-triple game) that defy his image. But his teammates managed to have a little laugh over it.

“That was a little embarrassing,” Avila said, “but Miguel all year has been making fun of the way I run. He thinks it’s funny, so he was joking the way I look when I run was funny to him. But I’ve still got a couple steals over him.”

Avila also took another pitch in the dirt that hit him in his right wrist — right above where he took Ryan Perry’s wild pitch Friday night, Avila said. Jim Leyland said he plans on resting Avila on Sunday.

Thursday: Tigers vs. Indians

Leyland said he was weighing whether to catch Alex Avila or use him at DH. He opted for the DH spot. Combine that with another Leyland point, that he’s weighing whether to start Avila at third base on Friday, and it’s possible he’ll get back-to-back games at a position other than catcher.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Don Kelly, 3B
  3. Brennan Boesch, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Victor Martinez, C
  6. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  7. Alex Avila, DH
  8. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  9. Ryan Raburn, 2B

P: Max Scherzer

INDIANS

  1. Grady Sizemore, DH
  2. Carlos Santana, C
  3. Michael Brantley, CF
  4. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
  5. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
  6. Matt LaPorta, 1B
  7. Travis Buck, LF
  8. Cord Phelps, 2B
  9. Adam Everett, 3B

Inge to go on rehab with Mud Hens

While the Tigers are out west for Interleague Play over the next week, Brandon Inge will be on the road for International League play (see what I did there) with the Mud Hens in Louisville and Columbus. The Tigers confirmed Thursday morning that Inge is headed out on a Minor League rehab assignment.

Inge, who went on the 15-day DL two weeks ago with mono, had said earlier in the week that he wanted to come back as soon as he was ready. He’s eligible to come off the DL on Friday, but he said he thought better of it once he picked up his activity level beyond batting practice and infield work.

“I know usually I want to come back as fast as I can, and I still do,” Inge said. “But after working out the first two days, I realized I need to go, because it’s different. It’s like once you have to do something physical, it’s a different type of tired. I think I need to let my body get back into the daily grind.”

In other words, Inge needs to get into baseball shape again. He’ll serve as the designated hitter tonight at Louisville and then start playing at third base. The plan is for him to play six games.

Meanwhile, it sounds like Jim Leyland will be following through on his idea to use Alex Avila at third base with the Tigers to help survive the next week without the DH. Leyland said he’s considering starting Avila at third Friday night at Colorado.

Reactions to Tigers’ share of division lead

How much stock do the Tigers put in moving into a virtual tie atop the AL Central in June? Depends on who you ask.

  • Alex Avila: “It’s nice to get there. It definitely means something, because that’s what we’re working towards. We want to win as many games as possible and be in first place [at season’s end]. That’s the goal. But at this point, that’s not something we’re focused on. We’re trying to win the game that day.”
  • Brennan Boesch: “It feels good. It’s a long way to go obviously, but the Indians were playing such good baseball early on that it just shows that this team, when we put our heads down and play hard, that we can be a force to be reckoned with and it feels good to be there right now.”
  • Max Scherzer: “Yeah, it feels good, but we’ve got [about] 100 games left. That’s a lot of games. A lot of things can happen. But you’ve got to love the talent on this team. You’ve got to love what our offense is doing, love what our pitching staff’s doing. We’re in a real good position, and we’re starting to really come on strong. I definitely like our team.”
  • Austin Jackson: “It definitely is [a sense of satisfaction], but we’ve still got a long way to go. We understand that. We just need to keep playing good baseball and just take care of what we can take care of.”

When two triples happen to Tigers catchers

Our Tigers associate reporter, Chris Vannini, has the story on Alex Avila’s two-triple night. Here’s the rundown on the feat, courtesy of baseball-reference.com:

  • It’s the third time since at least 1919 that a Tigers catcher has had two triples in a game. Brad Ausmus was the last to do it, that one coming July 6, 1999. Lance Parrish was the other, doing it Sept. 27, 1980. Both games were at Tiger Stadium, and both were against the Yankees.
  • The last Tigers player at any position to have two triples in a game was Curtis Granderson. He had four of them in a Detroit uniform, the last of them at Texas on Aug. 18, 2008.
  • Avila is just the 18th Major League catcher with at a two-triple game, and just the third in the last 10 years.

About that interference call

Somebody in the Comerica Park box office put it best: No matter whether the umpires ruled on the eighth-inning interference call, whether Jhonny Peralta was allowed to score or had to stay at third base, one manager was going to get thrown out of the game.

Since Peralta came home with the go-ahead run and wasn’t sent back, it was Twins manager Ron Gardenhire getting tossed. And upon further review, he might have been right to react that way.

It was a very close play from a distance that no umpire usually has to make a ruling like that. And to be fair, I can’t be sure whether crew chief Gary Darlling actually meant that the fan in the orange shirt committed the interference that was called, or whether he was one of the people who touched it after one of the fans leaning over the railing touched it. The latter makes more sense, and from the camera angles available during the game, I thought it was hard to tell. It seemed like the indication on the field was that the second fan leaning over the railing might have touched it. One would think it would’ve been easier to tell from field level.

But if it really was the fan in the orange who was the first to touch the ball, replays showed he wasn’t leaning out into the field of play to do it. He really wasn’t leaning out at all until after the ball hit the boy beside him. That’s the difference between an interference call and a ground-rule double, which is the difference between an umpire’s discretion to allow a runner coming around third to score, and an automatic two-base ruling which would’ve left Peralta at third.

“I don’t care who it hit,” Gardenhire said. “When it hits a fan in the stands, it’s a ground-rule double and you don’t score. However you want to call it, that guy doesn’t score. So it doesn’t make sense to me, and what they told me didn’t make any sense, either.”

I’ve seen people on the message boards make the case that Delmon Young paid for giving up on that play too quickly, that he was supposedly too lazy to run it down and make a play at the play plate. Sorry, but whatever the ruling, I’m not buying that. Every player I can think of on highlights like that goes for the interference signal as soon as they notice it. I’ve never heard anybody coached not to do that. The sooner the signal, the sooner the call, the better chance of getting the runner held at third. If the two sides were reversed and it’s, say, Ryan Raburn or Andy Dirks in left field and he plays through the play, he would be crucified for not making it clear that ball was interfered with.

Let’s be honest: That’s a play where, based on how the umpires rule, whichever team benefits from the call supposedly did everything right to sell it. And on the other side, somebody will use it as further evidence for expansion of replay review.

Remember all the calls that went against the Tigers last year around this time? Jim Joyce? The phantom strike three on Johnny Damon in Atlanta? Well, this one went in their favor.

A few other notes before I finish up what’s left of this holiday weekend:

  • If you thought Brad Penny was throwing a lot more curveballs than usual, you would be right. According to brooksbaseball.net, using data from MLB.com Gameday, 28 of Penny’s 105 pitches were curveballs, or about 26 percent. That’s double the percentage of curveballs from all his previous outings this season, according to fangraphs.com. Both Penny and Alex Avila said the curveball was working well and they wanted to establish it early, then it waned a bit later. By contrast, brooksbaseball.net had him with only 14 sinkers today, a lot less than he’s been throwing it lately. But fastball command probably played into that.
  • Jim Leyland talked after the game about guys needing to expand their strike zone just a bit when they get into two-strike counts in situations where they need to put the ball in play to get a run in. He said that comes with experience. Still, it’s hard to accuse Austin Jackson of not expanding his strike zone, sometimes a little too much in some situations.
  • For all that will be made of Leyland’s decision to hit Casper Wells in place of Andy Dirks, it’s very difficult to dismiss the righty-lefty idea in that situation, especially with Phil Dumatrait on the mound. Wells played with Dumatrait at Triple-A Toledo early last season. For Wells so far this season, the splits are reversed, he has actually been a little better against right-handers than left-handers, and his strikeout rate is higher against lefties.

Tigers meet after Sunday’s loss

Compared to the news overnight, the day-to-day dealings of a baseball team are minutiae. Still, it’s my job to chronicle it. So if you’ve been looking for some emotion from the Tigers over the course of their slow start, then Sunday’s game was it.

While Jim Leyland talked in his office with reporters after Sunday’s 5-4 loss in Cleveland, the doors to the clubhouse were closed, something that rarely if ever happens after games. A few of the voices inside were loud enough to be heard in Leyland’s office down the hall. The door slamming after one exchange could easily be heard.

Once the doors opened, it was a very subdued, quiet clubhouse, with players and coaches inside. At one point, Brandon Inge and Alex Avila were talking with Joaquin Benoit, who took the loss Sunday with a three-run eighth inning.

Not sure whether it could be called a closed-door meeting, or a session, or a reaction to something else. One player indicated it wasn’t something as formal as a meeting. Suffice to say, it was not a pep rally.

Nobody went into details on what was said.

“It’s good,” Inge said. “It’s one of those [things] I think can unite the team. We’re good, anyway, but I think we’ll be better in the long run for it.”

Said Avila: “After the game, doors are closed. It’s just us, and we’ve just got to figure things out.”

Leyland didn’t say anything about what was going on inside, though the commotion could be heard ongoing while he talked. When asked what he can say to players during struggles like this, though, without putting too much attention on the struggles, his remarks hinted at something.

“All you can do is try to relax guys as much as you can,” Leyland said. “That’s what you try to do. And then at some point, you have to say something else. I mean, all you can do is support them. But at some point, you have to step up. That’s just the way it is.”

Avila: “We’re way too talented to be playing like this”

One of the things that has been emphasized in the Tigers clubhouse this year is a steady approach — no panic, no overconfidence, but a day-in, day-out approach. That comes from the players. And to be clear, they’re not panicking now over back-to-back losses. But among the players who were around the clubhouse after Tuesday’s loss to Erik Bedard and the M’s, dropping the Tigers back to the .500 mark on the year, you could sense some frustration.

That springboard that sweeping the White Sox might have been hoped to provide is pretty well gone. And while the standings don’t mean much in April, it’s looking less likely that they’ll head into Cleveland this weekend with a chance to vault into first place.

More important to the Tigers, they haven’t played good baseball the last couple days. And that’s clearly bothering Alex Avila.

“It is a little frustrating,” Avila said, “because we’re just way too talented to be playing .500 baseball right now. We need to figure it out, and kind of get things rolling. We show flashes of that, and then we take a couple of steps back. As the season goes on, as we can figure things out and kind of gel as a team, then hopefully we can kind of get on a roll, because we’re way too talented to be playing like this.”

When asked about the hitting of Miguel Olivo, who entered the series batting .164 but has suddenly raked in the cleanup spot the last two nights, Avila talked more in general.

“It seems like the entire Mariners team has our number, not just Olivo,” Avila said. “As a team, the numbers coming in, you see they haven’t been swinging well as a team. And then they play us, and they swing the bats great. We’ve just got to figure out a way to get them out.”

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.”

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