August 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Notebook

Brad Ausmus rewarded for keeping Alex Avila in Tigers lineup

Detroit — And to think, Brad Ausmus nearly sat him out all three games of this series against the Rockies.

Facing three left-handed pitchers in three days, Ausmus pondered keeping left-handed-hitting catcher Alex Avila on the bench in favor of right-handed-hitting Bryan Holaday. Avila had been struggling at the plate, 2-for-31, against righties and lefties.

“I didn’t want Alex to not play three straight games,” Ausmus said. “I toyed with the idea of playing Holaday in games one and three. It crossed my mind to play him in all three. But I didn’t want to keep Alex out that long.

“And he made me look good by getting three hits.

Avila got two, two-out, run-producing hits off Rockies left-hander Tyler Matzek, and added a double off closer LaTroy Hawkins in the Tigers’ 11-5 romp Saturday.

And for his efforts, Ausmus said Avila will start against Sunday afternoon against left-hander Jorge De La Rosa.

“He took some good swings off the left-handed starter and that was good to see,” Ausmus said. “He’s been working hard with Wally (Joyner, hitting coach) and it was nice to see some results.”

Avila also threw out two runners and scored twice.

“Me and Wally have been working our tails off to try and get me back to the form I used to be,” Avila said. “One of the luxuries so far this year is I’ve been healthy. But I haven’t been able to translate that health into production.

“But I am working hard and I’ve been able to finish strong the last few years. I am hoping to do that again.”

Pudge returns

Former Tigers catcher Pudge Rodriguez was the honored guest at the Fiesta Tigre celebration Saturday and he didn’t disappoint.

He threw out the first pitch – but he threw it from home plate to second base, where Anibal Sanchez took the strong throw.

Before the game, he had some words of encouragement for his old battery mate Justin Verlander.

“I love Justin a lot,” Rodriguez told MLB.com. “And to be honest with you, I’m probably going to sit down for five minutes with him. The one thing I don’t like from him right now is he’s keeping the ball way too much up in the strike zone. I want to talk him about why he’s doing that.

“He’s a fighter. He’s a guy that loves to pitch. He didn’t like any manager to take him out of the game he started. Friday night he did a great job. It’s good to see what he did. … But I want to just make a little adjustment, keep the ball down. He’s a strikeout pitcher and the only way he can strike out people is to keep the ball down.”

Around the horn

Outfielder Andy Dirks went 1-for-3 in his first rehab start Friday night, and was 1-for-4 on Saturday night. Dirks, out since March 29 after lower back surgery, is playing at Single A West Michigan.

… Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez did not start Saturday. He came out of the game Friday after turning his ankle making a diving catch of a Victor Martinez foul ball. The Rockies called up outfielder Jason Pridie from Triple-A Colorado Springs.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

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Tigers catcher hits an RBI double during Saturday's 11-5 victory over the Rockies. He finished with three hits. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News