Detroit — Just call Tigers catcher Alex Avila a ball magnet.
After taking a litany of foul balls off his mask and off his body throughout the season, Avila finally got to a breaking point in early August. He took more than two weeks off because of a concussion.
In Thursday’s Game 5 of the American League Championship Series on Thursday, he absorbed a collision on a play at the plate while Red Sox catcher David Ross was trying to score from third base.
Avila looked to take the brunt of the blow on the play — magnified because of the concussion issues — but Avila’s left knee also twisted awkwardly after he tagged Ross out easily.
“My foot just got stuck there and kind of twisted weird or hyper-extended weird and strained that tendon,” Avila said.
Avila took a few more foul balls off the mask in the third and fourth innings before he was removed after the top of the fourth for Brayan Pena, who got his first postseason action when he pinch-hit in the bottom of the inning.
“Every time your No. 1 guy goes down, it’s concerning to everybody because he’s a big factor in our ballclub,” Pena said.
“In my situation, that’s why I’m always ready; it’s baseball and that position we play is a very tough position.
“I didn’t want to get in the game under this circumstance, with him getting hurt.”
Manager Jim Leyland and head trainer Kevin Rand talked between the top and bottom of the fourth inning and decided to insert Pena rather than risk further injury. The Tigers announced Avila had a patellar tendon strain in his left knee and his status is day to day.
“The left knee was pretty rough, pretty bad. I’m not really sure of the significance,” Leyland said. “We felt like the best thing to do would be to get him out of there and hopefully be ready to play two days from now in Boston.”
Avila said he’ll know more today about what whether he’ll be able to play in Game 6 Saturday.
“(Friday) obviously will tell me a lot but I had this injury before in 2011 and I have dealt with it on and off the last three years, so I’m familiar with it,” he said.
It’s just part of the pounding Avila has taken this season — a concern, considering the increased attention being directed toward collisions at the plate, foul balls off the body and mask in addition to the normal wear and tear that is inherent in playing the position.
On Aug. 8, with the Indians’ Nick Swisher batting, Avila took a foul ball flush off his catcher’s mask and was injured. He later came out of that game — but played against he Yankees two days later — and took a couple weeks off after being diagnosed with a concussion before returning on Aug. 27 against the A’s.
Following that scare, Avila got a new catcher’s helmet and a reinforced mask to help absorb some of the punishment he was taking behind the plate.
But Thursday’s issue was more in line with the questions in previous seasons, including Buster Posey’s season-ending collision with Scott Cousins in 2011.
Ross was trying to score from third base with the infield drawn in and Avila got the throw from Omar Infante at second, but the collision seemed to leave Avila shaken up.
For Avila, it’s a play that comes with the territory of playing the position and he didn’t think Ross did anything unusual in trying to score the run.
“I would have done the same thing,” Avila said. “I’ve had a lot of big guys hit me. That’s part of the game; they’re doing everything they can to get a run and I’m doing everything I can to stop it.
“I didn’t think it was a dirty play at all — that’s just a good, hard play.”
The Tigers have the option to remove Avila from the active roster for the remainder of the series and replace him with another player, but Avila would not be eligible to be on the World Series roster, if the Tigers make it that far.