First rehab start for Avila goes smoothly

TOLEDO, Ohio — The first step in Alex Avila’s return
to the Detroit Tigers went without a hitch.

As planned, Avila caught lefty Andy Oliver for five innings, had two at-bats
and ended the night without incident Monday in his first rehabilitation start
for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens.

“Just kind of what I expected as far as where I was at physically,”
Avila said. “Just trying to build up my stamina. From not doing anything
for about a week and a half to catching and running, throwing, hitting, that
kind of stuff, it kind of feels like spring training a little bit. First day,
probably a little shocking to the body. But I feel really good.”

Avila has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 6 with a right hamstring
strain. He did not go on the Tigers’ recent road trip to Cincinnati and Chicago
and only returned to baseball activity over the weekend.

Although he hated to go on the DL, Avila admits it was the right thing to do so
the hamstring strain didn’t recur.

“I didn’t want to happen what kind of happened earlier where I took three
days off, tried to play and then couldn’t,” Avila said. “Muscle
injuries are tricky. Normally you gotta shut it down and not do anything until
it’s fully healed. I was out two weeks or so, it could have been a month and I
didn’t want that to happen.”

Avila’s work over the weekend was so encouraging that the Tigers decided to
send him to Toledo for three games.

“I knew coming into (Monday) from what I was doing in Detroit over the
weekend that my hamstring was good and I just wanted to make sure I could get
it to where I could go 100 percent not thinking about it,” Avila said.
“Now it’s just kind of getting back into a nice rhythm at the plate and
seeing some pitches, take some balls off the chest, building up some bruises
and stuff like that. That’s what these games are about.”

Avila flew out to right and struck out swinging in his two at-bats Monday
night. He also got in plenty of work behind the plate with Oliver.

“Andy was a little wild at times but it was good to get back there and see
some pitches and block some balls and move around,” Avila said.

As for batting, Avila knows it’ll just take a little time to get his timing
back.

“First time I’ve seen a pitcher in almost two weeks,” Avila said.
“Saw some pitches, had some pretty decent swings and feel pretty good.
Couple more days of good at-bats and I’ll be ready to go.”

Avila is supposed to catch five innings again Tuesday night and then be the
designated hitter Wednesday. If all goes as well as Monday night’s game, Avila
will come off the DL and catch Jacob Turner on Thursday against the St. Louis
Cardinals.

Seeing the Tigers play better the last week or so has been encouraging for
Avila while he’s been out.

“They’ve been playing really good baseball, consistent, winning
series,” Avila said. “That’s what it’s going to take for us to get
back in it. We’re only three games out. That’s nothing. That can change in a
series. You just gotta play consistent. To play consistent, you gotta play good
defense, get timely hitting, get good pitching. We’ve been able to do that
recently. It’s a lot more fun to play that way.

“It’s been a lot of fun watching them, but I can’t wait to get back.”