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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.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Avila still experiencing mild concussion symptoms

If Timex were looking for a new spokesman — and was still using its old slogan of “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking” — there’s one guy who would be a shoo-in for the job.

Alex Avila has been battered and beaten throughout his short Major League Baseball career as a catcher. Foul tips, back-swings, collisions at the plate — you name it, and opposing batters have hit him with it.

But after teammate Prince Fielder dropped Avila “like a prize fighter” with an inadvertent elbow to the chin in Sunday’s game, leaving Avila with a sprained jaw, the Tigers are not just going to let their tough-as-nails catcher play through it.

Jim Leyland termed his starting catcher “medically not ready to play” before Tuesday’s opener to the season’s final home stand, before team doctors re-examined him. He was given concussion tests for the second time, and scored roughly the same, revealing the continuation of mild concussion symptoms.

“Took a CT scan today, and everything checks out very good. Thank God there’s no damage or anything like that,” said Avila after the game, admitting to a slight headache, and that the lights and activity of the postgame locker room were bothering him a bit.

“According to the doctor, once the symptoms are gone — which in my case is headaches — they’ll put me through the test again, and if everything checks out there, then I’ll be good to go.”

The waiting game is a lot the same situation the team was in a day earlier, when they thought Avila — who was initially thought to have no concussion symptoms after Sunday’s collision, but has clearly had issues since — could play in Monday’s crucial makeup game with the White Sox.

That, too, was a no-go.

“He wasn’t going to play under any circumstances, and I can’t tell you about (Tuesday). That’s a real touchy one when you start messing with upstairs. I’ll have to feel 100 percent that he’s totally cleared before I would play him,” Leyland, who was informed right before the game of Avila’s unavailability, told reporters in Chicago. “He took batting practice — he actually swung pretty good — but he had a headache and didn’t feel very well at all. He got a headache right away, and the trainer alerted me that he would not be available.”

While the run-of-the-mill nick usually can be closed up with a little glue, or a pain quelled by aspirin, it’s not really surprising that it’s taking Avila a while to recover from this particular bang-up.

With both he and Fielder chasing a Carlos Santana foul pop-up in front of the first-base dugout in the sixth inning Sunday, Avila ran directly into the tip of Fielder’s right elbow.

The catcher immediately crumpled to the ground, looking like — in his manager’s words — a prize fighter who’d been knocked out on his feet. He left the field under his own power after being attended to by trainers.

As beat up as he gets, as much of a ball-magnet as he seems to be, though, the two games missed this week were the first time this season the rugged catcher has been held out of games as a result of the pounding he takes as a catcher. Last season and earlier this year, Avila had problems with tendinitis in his knees, as well as a sore hamstring that landed him on the disabled list.

It was clear that his knees were an issue that hurt his performance in last year’s postseason, but how much of a factor have the constant bumps and bruises been in this year’s offensive struggles?

Avila is hitting 50 points lower and slugging 129 points less than he was at this time last year, with less than half the number of home runs (19 in 2011, eight now) and 24 fewer RBI (67 in ’11, 43 now).

Or is it a product of the league catching up to a guy, figuring out how to get him out?

“Well, I definitely think it’s both. Early in the year, I was dealing with some injuries, with my knee and my hamstring, ended up having to go on the DL, and everything. That took its toll.And obviously, throughout the whole season, just getting banged up and stuff like that,” Avila said in a recent interview on MLB Network Radio’s “Inside Pitch” show.

“At the same time ... I haven’t played — well, I guess I just haven’t had the results that I would like, or what I expect myself to have.

“It’s hard when you’re battling injuries, and having to adjust to the league, which is constantly adjusting to you. It’s definitely been a tough year, but at the same time, I’d rather it be a tough year in the position we’re in.”


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