Alex Avila: Tigers’ hero one day, knocked out of game the next

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — A hero one night, concussed the next.

Such was the plight of catcher Alex Avila, who, after hitting the game-winner Saturday, had to be pulled out of the game Sunday after striking out in the seventh inning because of light-headedness.

“He took one off the mask earlier in the day, but at the time he didn’t show the reaction that normally is associated with someone who’s been concussed,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He just kind of went about his business.”

Until that final at-bat.

“It wasn’t until his last plate appearance that somebody in the dugout said he didn’t look right,” Ausmus said. “As soon as the bat was over, I asked him how he was feeling and trainer Kevin Rand asked him how he was feeling, and he said he had a headache.

“That was a red flag right there. We got him out of there.”

Avila was clearly in some discomfort after the game as he prepared to travel to Minnesota and he didn’t address the media.

His head trauma is a fast-growing issue for the Tigers. It’s the third time this year he’s dealt with concussion symptoms, the most recent forced him to miss three games Sept 3-6. Had this been the regular season, he’d be placed on the seven-day disabled list for concussion treatment.

With expanded rosters, there is no need to use the disabled list, but Avila will have to go through the protocol and pass the tests before he is cleared to play.

“It’s not automatic (that he will have to sit out seven days),” Ausmus said. “But there is a very good chance he won’t be in there tomorrow.”

Verlander’s blister

It bothered him a little bit in his previous start and it bothered him a lot Sunday. Justin Verlander has been dealing with a blister on his right thumb.

“It’s not debilitating, but it got a little worse today,” Verlander said. “I’ve dealt with it before. It might have been part of the reason Brad took me out.”

Ausmus confirmed as much, though Verlander had thrown 109 pitches (only 35 of those with nobody on base) when he took him out with two outs and two on in the sixth.

“It got a little worse,” Verlander said. “Judging how it’s been in the past, usually it takes getting worse before it heals properly.”

Verlander explained that the blister cracked open on him as the game progressed. He hopes that it rips off completely before his next start.

“We’ll see,” he said. “I am not missing the start. Whether it heals or not doesn’t matter.”

Why the bunting?

Ausmus said before the game that he doesn’t want his players bunting early in games, and he doesn’t necessarily think it’s a good idea for speedy hitters like Rajai Davis to bunt, even in typical bunt situations.

Yet, Andrew Romine attempted to sacrifice in the third inning Saturday and Davis laid down sacrifice bunts both Saturday and again Sunday.

“I am not huge on small-ball early in the game,” Ausmus said. “I’d rather play for the big inning. If you have a pitching matchup and it looks like it’s going to be a low-scoring affair, I might be more open to it.”

Ausmus said Romine bunted on his own and with Davis, he moved runners into scoring position with both of his bunts.

“If Raj grounds out, he’s probably not going to ground into a double play,” he said. “So if you end up with runners at first and third with Raj at first, two pitches later it might be second and third anyway if he steals.

“So a lot of times when you have a guy who can really run in a position where you might bunt, it’s actually incentive not to bunt because he can advance himself.”

Around the horn

Ian Kinsler has done a lot of good things for the Tigers this season, but one of his quirks is his penchant for getting picked off first. He was nailed again Saturday, the second time he’s been picked in four days and fourth time this season.

“Yeah, he has been picked off a few times,” Ausmus said. “There is never an opportune time to get picked off but generally speaking you want guys like Ian, Rajai Davis and Andrew Romine to advance themselves with their speed. Sometimes the cost is you will get picked off occasionally.”

... Ausmus wasn’t quite as forgiving of rookie Nick Castellanos’ base running lapse Saturday. He led off the inning with a double but didn’t advance on a looping single to short left field. “He got caught in between, unsure if it was going to be caught and he froze,” Ausmus said. “I sympathize because it happened to me once. So I understand. But it better not be a habit.”

... Catcher James McCann spent last winter playing baseball in the Dominican Republic, and he has been asked to return again this winter. But McCann has another, much more pressing engagement. He will be getting married in November. “I think I am just going to use the offseason to recharge and get ready for spring training,” he said.

... Reliever Phil Coke, making his first appearance since straining his lower back last Wednesday, pitched a scoreless inning and got the win Sunday.

On deck: Tigers at Twins

Series: Three games, Monday-Wednesday, Target Field, Minneapolis, Minn.

First pitch: 8:10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday

TV/radio: All three games on FSD/97.1

Series probables: Monday — RHP Max Scherzer (16-5, 3.19) vs. RHP Anthony Swarzak (3-1, 3.95); Tuesday —RHP Rick Porcello (15-11, 3.23) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (5-11, 5.64); Wednesday —LHP David Price (3-3, 3.70) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (11-11, 4.58)


Swarzak, Twins: This would be Tommy Milone’s spot in the rotation but he’s been shelved by a neck injury. So manager Ron Gardenhire is turning to Swarzak, a reliever.

Scherzer, Tigers: He’s beaten the Twins twice this season, but he hasn’t exactly overwhelmed them. In 11 innings, he’s allowed 12 hits, six runs and five walks.