Tigers Notes: Avila back in starting lineup Sunday

Two nights after getting caught in the mask by David Ortiz's backswing and leaving the game, Alex Avila is back in the lineup for Sunday night's game.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Alex Avila was fine even after the game Friday night, but they didn't want to take any chances.

Rick Osentoski

DETROIT -- Tigers catcher Alex Avila may still be a baseball magnet but he's doing fine.

Two nights after getting caught in the mask by David Ortiz's backswing and leaving the game, Avila was back in the lineup for Sunday night's game.

"I don't think I was that concerned when I came out of the game," Avila said. "The last time I had a concussion I was nauseous and dizzy, a little more severe, and I wasn't any of those things. The reason why they took me out was because I blanked on who we played the day before. But after going through the tests (Saturday) and having a day and going through activities, I didn't have any other symptoms or anything like that. Felt good and that's why I'm not on the 7-day DL."

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Avila was fine even after the game Friday night, but they didn't want to take any chances, which is why Bryan Holaday played Saturday.

"He feels like he can play, the doctors feel like he can play, (head athletic trainer) Kevin Rand feels like he can play," Ausmus said. "We're hoping he has a good game, and doesn't get hit by any bats or balls. Although there's a good chance he gets hit by something. He gets hit every game."

Ausmus and former manager Jim Leyland, both catchers, said they never got hit like Avila does and have never seen anyone get hit as much as Avila.

"(Saturday) I was in the dugout and (Ian) Kinsler fouled off two balls that almost hit me," Avila said. "I don't know if I get hit any more than other catchers. Maybe somebody should take a tally of that."

Avila did say he planned to take evasive maneuvers for Ortiz.

"I probably won't be as close," Avila said. "I'm where you normally are as a catcher. I may just take a half-step back just for when he's up."

Because Avila has had concussions before and gets hit so much, the Tigers invested in a CryoHelmet, which helps cool the head and the carotid artery in the neck to prevent or limit inflammation.

"This is really the only issue I've had," Avila said. "I've already played 45-50 games and it'd not even really an issue. After the game I wore it, a couple times actually, and I'm playing (Sunday). I don't know if it has anything to do with that. It certainly does feel better after I wear it. It's like icing a bruise."

Avila, who was adamant that he'll never have a photo taken wearing the CryoHelmet, said it's a neoprene material with ice packs in it.

"You know how if you have a headache and you put maybe a cold towel on there, gives you a little relief? Same type of feeling," Avila said.


After giving up another run in the ninth inning Saturday night, closer Joe Nathan's ERA has climbed to 7.04, a far cry from the 1.39 he had with the Texas Rangers in 2013.

"I'm not overly concerned," Ausmus said. "Obviously, the results aren't what we want from Joe. The truth is, we need Joe Nathan to pitch well, we need Joe Nathan to close games. We're going to have to find a way to work through this."

Ausmus said the good news is that Nathan feels fine physically.

"It could be mechanical," Ausmus said. "It could be a combination of factors. His velocity's the same as it was last year, when he had an outstanding year. He throws the same pitches. It's just a matter of getting him on track."

Ausmus scoffed at the notion that at 39, Nathan is getting too old.

"He's six months older than when last season ended," Ausmus said. "Take a look at his numbers from last year. They were unbelievable, really. Usually when a guy gets older, you see the velocity drop off, and you're worried about it — now his velocity has dropped off over the course of his career a little bit. But his velocity this year is basically the same as it was last year."


Anibal Sanchez has had some bad luck since he returned from the disabled list.

Despite allowing just one earned run in his last two starts (15 1/3 innings), Sanchez and the Tigers both failed to get a win.

Sanchez has not thrown more than 111 pitches this season and Ausmus was reluctant to let him go longer right after he came off the DL, but that could change Sunday.

"Now that it's his fifth start back off the DL, I'd certainly feel more comfortable with him getting up to 120 pitches, more so than I did two starts ago," Ausmus said.


Andrew Romine's sister, Janelle Alexander, moved to Novi, Mich., with her husband a few years ago so it seemed like a great coincidence when he ended up with the Tigers this season.

It turned out even better this weekend as Janelle welcomed her first child, Tennessee June Alexander.

Both mom and baby girl, who was 6 pounds, five ounces, are doing well and resting at home.

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