Avila not yet cleared for baseball activities, but will get new mask when he returns
DETROIT — When Alex Avila comes back to catch for the Detroit Tigers, encasing him in bubble wrap is not an option, as much as they’d like to.
But there will be some changes made to Avila’s equipment to forestall the very serious problem of concussion symptoms he’s had multiple times in his short big-league career, adding a bit more protection.
“I don’t believe he’s going to the hockey style mask, but he will be wearing a heavier mask than he’s using now. With a little more padding,” said manager Jim Leyland of his fifth-year catcher, who’s currently on the seven-day concussion disabled list, after taking a foul tip off his ear on Aug. 8. “We’ve been kind of nosing around about it.”
Avila was checked out at Comerica Park on Thursday, but will be held out of baseball activities until he’s without concussive symptoms for an entire 24-hour period. He’s not eligible to come off the disabled list until Saturday.
In the interim, the Tigers are looking for new headgear.
“It’s 2013. They can make anything you want. He’s just going to get a little more padding and a heavier bar, I think,” Leyland said.
“The one he has is like a feather. It weighs as much as that water bottle.”
A relative neophyte to the catching position, after starting his on-the-job training for the position before his junior season at Alabama in 2008, Avila doesn’t necessarily have a longstanding attachment to a particular style of mask.
But he said last season that he’d tried the hockey style mask once — borrowing Max St. Pierre’s — but did not like it, since it kept all of the impact from a foul tip inside. He preferred one he’d been wearing, since the lightweight nature allowed it to pop off easily, taking away some of the impetus and momentum of the foul ball.
“It was supposed to have been safer,” Leyland said. “It’s supposed to spin, or something, so you don’t take the (punishment).”
That may not be enough now, though.
Now it looks like they’ll get him one that’s more like the ones that Leyland wore in his own catching days.
“Well, there were different kinds of masks. You had the bar mask, then they had what they call the wire mask. I think both of them were my years, but that’s going back a long way,” Leyland said. “The masks were always heavier.”
As long as it’s more protective, that should help Avila, who’s admitted before that concerns over concussions could cut his career short, especially in his position, where he gets hit so often.