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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Avila's fine after getting 'smoked' — day off is just a day off, nothing more

You figured it had to be bad if Alex Avila came out of the game.

When the ironman (or some say titanium) catcher got smoked in the mask by a foul tip in Thursday night’s game in Boston, it was no different than had happened seemingly a thousand times before.

It didn’t knock him out, and it didn’t cause a concussion — he passed all those tests.

But it did get him out of the game, after opening a small but bloody cut on the bridge of his nose, when his helmet slid down on contact.

“I guess I just had it a little too far down and the mask was knocked down,” Avila said. “That wasn’t any harder than I’ve been hit before. Anytime I get hit in the face, I’m a little dazed. You’re a little shaken up for a minute or so, and then you feel fine. A little blood got in my eyes, so it was stinging.”

Based on the recommendation from head trainer Kevin Rand, Tigers manager Jim Leyland made the decision to pull Avila from the game — something that seemed pretty rare, given how beat up Avila gets on a game-to-game basis.

It’s not the first time Avila has gotten nicked up, and it won’t be the last. He seems to take an inordinate number of foul tips directly off his body.

“He does. I don’t have an answer for (why),” said Leyland, himself a former catcher, admitting that Avila doesn’t know why, either. “No, I don’t think anybody does. I told him I caught without a mask, and I said, ‘It shows.’

“No, I can’t answer it. He just gets hit. That’s the way it goes.”

Leyland left Avila out of the lineup Friday night, but insisted it was not related to Avila getting hit. With back-up catcher Gerald Laird acting as the DH, that left third-string catcher Omir Santos — a surprise call-up when Austin Jackson went on the disabled list last week — to catch Casey Crosby in his Major League debut.

Most of that had nothing to do with Avila, though.

“He wants to be in there tonight. He wanted to be in there tonight. It has nothing to do with his health,” Leyland said. “We thought long and hard about that. I discussed it with some people, and I just thought that, you know, Santos has a feel for the kid. He’s been catching him. He gives us another right-hand bat in the lineup. So that’s why that decision was made.”

Avila was fine with it.

“Once I stood up and after a couple minutes, I felt like I was fine. Obviously, it looked pretty bad with the blood and knowing (Leyland) and Kevin, they wanted to make sure. I can’t blame them for that,” Avila said. “I told him yesterday that I was fine to go. I’m sure he and Kevin were a little freaked out about it. So, if they need me today, I’m sure I’ll be in there. I’m definitely going tomorrow. I can go today, but he didn’t want to push it. But, I’ll definitely be in there tomorrow.”

When he goes back in, though, he’s not going to chance anything. Certainly not going to change to the hockey-style helmet some catchers sport. He’d tried that once, borrowing the gear from former Tigers catcher Max St. Pierre.

“Those are worse. I probably would’ve had a concussion if I was wearing one of those. Everything (from the impact) is there. If it hits me, everything is staying right there. When it hits the mask, when the mask pops off, the energy goes with the mask,” Avila said. “That’s one of the reasons why I’ve never suffered a concussion or anything. I’ve tried the hockey mask before and got rid of it pretty quickly. You get hit with that – it’s like a ringing and it doesn’t go away. It’s sitting on your head. Plus, blocking balls with that thing – if you get a ball from the dirt that hits the mask – with the regular mask, it’s more of a flatter surface so if it hits me in the face, it’ll be in front of me. With the hockey mask, there’s more of a chance to ricochet and go side to side or behind me. That’s why I don’t use it.”

As for the cut on the bridge of his nose, which the training staff closed up with glue, Laird stopped by and insisted Avila had gotten his to copy Laird's nose-top scar — pointing it out to reporters.

"At least I got mine in a game," Avila shot back, good-naturedly.


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