Results tagged ‘ Alex Avila ’

Roster decisions imminent

By this time Wednesday, the Tigers’ 25-man roster should be known. Manager Jim Leyland said Monday afternoon that roster moves Tuesday to whittle the roster down to about 26, including a decision on the final position player and the backup catcher.

“By this time tomorrow, we’ll be down to probably one guy [over the limit],” Leyland said. “I think the picture will be almost totally clear for everybody by tomorrow.”

The one decision that will be left will be in the rotation. That, Leyland said, should be decided Wednesday, or Thursday at the latest. Dontrelle Willis and Jeremy Bonderman both start Tuesday — Willis against the Orioles in Sarasota, Bonderman in a minor league game. Nate Robertson is scheduled to start Thursday against the Braves. You can read into that, I suppose, what that means for Robertson’s chances.

Leyland said Sunday he has in his mind what his roster would be, but that it wouldn’t necessarily be the final roster. Dave Dombrowski has the final say on that. So what follows now is a discussion with Dombrowski, Leyland, the coaching staff and other members of the front office on the baseball side.

The final roster spot is essentially down to Don Kelly or Clete Thomas. The backup catching decision essentially comes down to whether the Tigers want Alex Avila catching a couple times a week in Detroit or every day in Toledo for development’s sake, which would most likely put Robinzon Diaz on the team. The fact that roster decisions are coming Tuesday seemingly indicates the Tigers don’t expect to grab another backup catcher on the waiver wire or in a trade.

Leyland drops hint on backup catcher

Next to filling out the rotation, Jim Leyland said today that deciding on a backup catcher is his top priority. And though Leyland said he hasn’t decided on one yet, he dropped a pretty good hint on Alex Avila’s chances.

When asked how much playing time will weigh into the decision, Leyland said, “That will be one of the factors, but not a sole factor. We’re going to do what we feel is the best thing for the Detroit Tigers right now. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it, too.”

The key terms in that is “right now.” The big question with Avila’s chances has been whether he’d be better off learning as the understudy in Detroit this year or honing his skills by catching everyday at Triple-A Toledo. The latter possibility is a big reason why the Tigers signed Robinzon Diaz to a minor league contract.

Third on the priority list? Figuring out the last player on the roster, Leyland said, which suggests he has most of the position spots on the bench (aside from backup catcher) figured out.

Laird will be Tigers' starting catcher

It’s starting to sound more and more like the Tigers’ decision on catching prospect Alex Avila is going to involve how much time he can get as a backup catcher, not how much he could share a starting role with Gerald Laird.

“We know Gerald Laird’s going to be our everyday catcher,” team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said during his question-and-answer session at TigerFest Saturday at Comerica Park.

So that takes care of that. The main question as far as the starting catching spot, then, is how much more Laird can provide offensively. On that, both Laird and the Tigers are optimistic.

“I think Gerald will hit more than he did last year,” Dombrowski said. “I was surprised that he did not hit as well. Of course, he caught and threw outstanding.”

Laird sounded surprised as well. But he also emphasized that defense and his pitchers were his focus, and they’ll continue to be a priority while he works with hitting coach Lloyd McClendon in Spring Training to hit better.

The difference will be that he already has worked with a lot of his pitchers, and he won’t have to spend as much time learning them.

“I talked with Mac about my offense,” Laird said Saturday. “I want to definitely work in the cages and work a lot in the spring. Because I know I’m capable of having a better year. Obviously, offensively I had a disappointing year, but my biggest thing last year was to come in and get these guys on the same page. With a whole new staff, 13 guys, I wanted them to want to throw to me. That was my biggest thing. And now being familiar with a lot of them, I can put more focus on my offense. I can go to the cage and do that, rather than go to the bullpen all the time and get to know these guys as much as I can.”

Laird said hitting coach Lloyd McClendon has noticed some mechanical tweaks he’d like to make to keep him level in his swing, so that he can get base hits out of some pitches he fouled off last year.

As for Avila, look for him to get a good amount of playing time in Spring Training as the Tigers try to figure out how much more seasoning he needs and whether he’s close enough that he can benefit from staying in the big leagues rather than playing every day at Triple-A Toledo.

“We’re not putting him on [the team yet], and we’re certainly not writing him off,” manager Jim Leyland said. “At the end of Spring Training, we’re going to try to weigh everything out.”

Then Leyland added another factor that probably works in Avila’s favor.

“We know what sometimes would be the best thing for a guy,” Leyland said. “But if he gives us the best chance to win games up here, he’s got to be up here. That’s just the way it is. There’s too much pressure on everybody anymore. You guys, us, Dave, the fans, they want to win. And if we think he’s the best choice to win games, even though his development may not come along as much as you want it to, we have to take him, I think. …

“The best part about it is he’s got a long Spring Training to go with us this year. He needs to catch is all. It’s just a matter of repetition and doing it.”

Hold that thought on Phil Coke

I know it was a pretty big story when Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said Tuesday that lefty Phil Coke would be stretched out and potentially viewed as a contestant for the fifth starter’s spot. But manager Jim Leyland indicated he still sees Coke’s future in relief.

“Personally, I’m looking at him more as a bullpen guy,” Leyland said. “I think we’re going to have enough issues when you talk about Galarraga bouncing back and Bonderman bouncing back and Nate Robertson bouncing back and Dontrelle Willis bouncing back. There’s only so many innings.

“Am I ruling it out? No, I’m not. But you can only give so many innings to so many guys in Spring Training, and the one thing you want to make sure is that you’re getting the guys ready that you know need to be ready.”

That said, he has quite a few relievers, too. And now that he has Jose Valverde at the end of it, he thinks the rest of the bullpen is going to fall into place.

He did not hide his happiness for the Valverde deal.

“Getting a closer was just humongous for us,” Leyland exclaimed. “Now you can kind of work backwards and fill in some holes here and there. Here’s the sixth inning, seventh inning, eighth inning. Now Bonderman comes back, Zumaya comes back. Nate [Robertson] and Willis, you don’t know how that’s going to play out. But with Scherzer, Porcello, Verlander, all of a sudden you look pretty good.”

He also did not hide his hope for another left-handed hitter.

“We’d like to have one,” Leyland said. “It’s just not that easy to find.”

Other Leyland tidbits included his outlook on the catching situation, where Alex Avila’s potential playing time is a looming issue to determine whether or not he sticks with the big club.

“Normally playing time is dictated by performance,” Leyland said. “The better you play, the more you play. We obviously have a pretty solid everyday catcher that was as good defensively last year as anybody in the league but needs to produce a little more offensively. Alex got a little experience — not a whole lot, but some good experience last year.

“I think Gerald put a lot of pressure on himself last year at handling the staff, learning the pitchers. I’m not making excuses for him; but I think he’ll be better offensively this year. I may be wrong, but I believe that. I think last year he really concentrated on getting to know Verlander and the pitchers and make sure he was handling the running game and all those things that he did so well for us. I think he’ll relax a little bit more offensively this year and produce more. We need him to produce some more offensively, there’s no question about that. And he knows that.”

Friday: Tigers at White Sox

Jim Leyland talked earlier this week about playing Alex Avila at some point this weekend in Chicago, and he seemed to be leaning towards doing it with Eddie Bonine pitching, since they worked with each other at Triple-A Toledo. As expected, Avila is catching Bonine. I would expect Laird will catch Saturday and Sunday for Nate Robertson and Edwin Jackson.

Placido Polanco is the only Tiger who has hit Peavy well (5-for-10) over his career, so matchups aren’t coming into play here. Miguel Cabrera is 2-for-17 against him.


  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Thomas, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Huff, DH
  6. Guillen, LF
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Laird, C
  9. Santiago, SS

P: Eddie Bonine


  1. Scott Podsednik, LF
  2. Gordon Beckham, 3B
  3. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  4. Paul Konerko, 1B
  5. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  6. Jermaine Dye, RF
  7. Carlos Quentin, DH
  8. Chris Getz, 2B
  9. Alex Rios, CF

P: Jake Peavy

Fields takes batting practice at Comerica Park

Daniel Fields’ batting practice at Comerica Park Friday afternoon wasn’t an arrival. For him, it was more like a reunion.

Four years ago, he was a coach’s kid looking up to the players. Now he’s a Tigers prospect, selected in the sixth round of June’s First-Year Player Draft. At least sizewise, more than a few Tigers are looking up to him.

“Ramon Santiago, he played with my dad in the Minors,” Fields said, referring to Santiago’s time at West Michigan playing for Bruce Fields. “It’s been a while since I’d seen him, so I gave him a big old hug. Alex Avila, I met him a couple years ago. He actually played against my brother in the summer [leagues], and I met him back then. There were a couple other guys I’d seen when my dad was coaching here [as hitting coach]. It was good to see those guys again.”

It was at Comerica Park where his resume as a hitter began to grow, where he hit a ball over the fence as a 13-year-old taking batting practice with his father. He didn’t clear the fences Friday, but he took just a couple rounds. It was enough for one of those moments where it hits the younger Fields that he’s now a professional baseball player, a realization that first crossed his mind in the hours after his late-night signing just ahead of the deadline.

“My friends were at my house when everything was happening,” Fields said. “After everybody left, I kind of went upstairs and was sitting in my room thinking about it, and that’s when it hit me: I was a professional athlete.”

He had another moment soon afterwards in Lakeland, where his first memories date back about 10 years. He was an eight-year-old following around his dad, then working Spring Training as an instructor, when one of those Florida downpours opened up over the complex.

“Everybody ran to go into the cafeteria or the locker room,” the younger Fields recalled. “For some reason, I turned my back, and when I turned around, everybody was gone. I was just looking around like, ‘Where did everybody go?’ I ran into the minor league clubhouse, and nobody was in there. So I went out and I saw my mom. She was picking one of our family friends up and was taking him back home. I saw my mom, so I started running after the car, and then everybody got into the car and she left.

“I was running down the street and chasing the car. She goes off, and I didn’t know where the car was, so I was walking down the street, and the whole time I’m just crying.”

Suffice it to say, he knows his way around now. He’s certainly on the Tigers’ radar. He’ll be back in Lakeland shortly for the start of the fall instructional league, then return home for offseason workouts.

Tigers at The Trop, Game 3

ST. PETERSBURG — By winning the first two games of this series, the Tigers moved to 4-2 against the Rays this season, which guarantees they’d win a season series against them for the first time since 2006. 

After Armando Galarraga’s struggles on Saturday night (six runs in 2 1/3 innings), manager Jim Leyland said he’d talk to the young righty and his coaching staff to see what the next step is. With Nate Robertson making two good starts for Detroit recently, Galarraga could find himself out of a rotation spot — which looks like it will fall on Saturday against the Twins.
We’ll find out more soon, I’m sure. 
On to the lineups, which have Ramon Santiago back in there after a two-hit night — this time taking Placido Polanco’s place at second base. 
Curtis Granderson, CF
Santiago, 2B
Carlos Guillen, LF
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Aubrey Huff, DH
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Brandon Inge, 3B
Gerald Laird, C
Adam Everett, SS
SP: Edwin Jackson (RH)
Jason Bartlett, SS
Carl Crawford, LF
Ben Zobrist, RF
Carlos Pena, 1B
Pat Burrell, DH
Evan Longoria, 3B
Akinori Iwamura, 2B
Dioner Navarro, C
Fernando Perez, CF
SP: Wade Davis (RH)
UPDATE (2:03 P.M. ET): 
* Fernando Rodney will indeed not be available to close tonight. He’s fine, but Leyland would rather take advantage of Monday’s off-day and give him three days of rest. Jeremy Bonderman will be off, too. 
* Alex Avila’s two-run homer against James Shields in the seventh inning on Saturday was an absolute moon shoot to right field, one that bounced off the catwalk that sits just above the JumboTron beyond the right-field seats. He’s the second player to hit a home run off what’s called the “C-ring” this season, with the other being Evan Longoria on April 30. “That was a bomb,” an impressed Leyland said.
— Alden Gonzalez

Avila's role expanding

What had been a plan to use Alex Avila to catch just Rick Porcello and Armando Galarraga starting out seems to be expanding a bit. Avila is in the lineup tonight to catch Edwin Jackson, and manager Jim Leyland suggested Friday that he could use Avila with left-hander Jarrod Washburn going forward.

That said, manager Jim Leyland mentioned after Saturday’s game that Gerald Laird will catch Sunday with Galarraga pitching. That has more to do with the opposing pitcher; Laird is 5-for-12 off Royals starter Kyle Davies with a double, homer and three RBIs.

Using Avila with Jackson isn’t a decision made on the spur of the moment. When Leyland set Avila’s schedule initially, he said he wanted to give Avila a chance to catch Jackson in a side session, which he did. Plus, Jackson has struggled in two of his last three starts.

If Avila starts catching Jackson regularly, of course, that’ll be the sign that Avila is starting more often than Laird.


  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Thomas, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Thames, LF
  7. Avila, C
  8. Inge, 3B
  9. Santiago, SS

P: Edwin Jackson


  1. David DeJesus, LF
  2. Mitch Maier, CF
  3. Billy Butler, 1B
  4. Mike Jacobs, DH
  5. Alberto Callaspo, 2B
  6. Mark Teahen, RF
  7. Brayan Pena, C
  8. Alex Gordon, 3B
  9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

P: Luke Hochevar

Avila starts Thursday, Friday

Manager Jim Leyland said Thursday morning that his plan with Alex Avila to use him catching Rick Porcello and Armando Galarraga for now. That means Avila will catch Friday night as well as his start today.

Magglio Ordonez also gets another start in right field. One gets the feeling that as long as Ordonez is showing signs of hitting — he’s 4-for-8 over his last two games, and batting .324 (11-for-34) in his last nine games — he’s probably going to be in the lineup until he cools off, whatever the financial implications. That said, keep in mind that Ordonez is a ways away from his contract option vesting, so the fact that he’s playing now doesn’t mean he’ll be playing a lot later if he isn’t hitting well.


  1. Curtis Granderson, CF
  2. Placido Polanco, 2B
  3. Clete Thomas, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Carlos Guillen, DH
  6. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  7. Brandon Inge, 3B
  8. Alex Avila, C
  9. Ramon Santiago, SS

P: Rick Porcello


  1. Brian Roberts, 2B
  2. Nolan Reimold, LF
  3. Nick Markakis, RF
  4. Aubrey Huff, 1B
  5. Ty Wigginton, 3B
  6. Luke Scott, DH
  7. Matt Wieters, C
  8. Felix Pie, CF
  9. Robert Andino, SS

P: David Hernandez

Avila here, but not in lineup

There’s a pretty relaxed young catcher and a rather proud papa at the ballpark today, but that doesn’t mean that Alex Avila is making his Major League debut tonight. Gerald Laird is back in the lineup for Edwin Jackson. It would not be a surprise, however, if Avila was behind the plate Thursday for Rick Porcello, whom Avila caught last year at Class A Lakeland.

Also notice Magglio is in the lineup. He’s 4-for-7 lifetime against O’s starter Jeremy Guthrie.


  1. Curtis Granderson, CF
  2. Placido Polanco, 2B
  3. Clete Thomas, LF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Carlos Guillen, DH
  6. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  7. Brandon Inge, 3B
  8. Gerald Laird, C
  9. Adam Everett, SS

P: Edwin Jackson


  1. Brian Roberts, 2B
  2. Nolan Reimold, LF
  3. Adam Jones, CF
  4. Nick Markakis, RF
  5. Aubrey Huff, 1B
  6. Melvin Mora, 3B
  7. Luke Scott, DH
  8. Gregg Zaun, C
  9. Cesar Izturis, SS

P: Jeremy Guthrie