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Kansas City, Mo.Alex Avila might return to the lineup Monday night as the Tigers' starting catcher.

That's because all tests, including tracking the ball during batting practice on Sunday, went well for him over the weekend.

If Avila can get a medical clearance to resume playing, he won't have to wait another day to do so.

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"He felt good, so I'm optimistic there's going to be a decision about him," manager Brad Ausmus said after Sunday's 5-2 loss to the Royals.

Avila missed the last six games because of post-concussion disorientation.

"I'll come in, get tested and see if I get the thumbs up," said Avila, about whom there was far less positive speculation when the Kansas City series began Friday night.

"Every day was a guessing game for the last three days," he said. "But (Saturday) was a good day and I was able to follow it up with another.

"For the last couple of days, I've felt normal."

Also getting better: Anibal Sanchez

If all goes well for another recovering Tiger, and it looks as if it is, they will have an addition to their bullpen this week — and for the postseason if they get there: Anibal Sanc.

But only if he doesn't return to starting instead, once he comes back from the disabled list — where he's been since Aug. 9 because of a strained chest muscle.

"It's definitely a possibility," Ausmus said, though, about Sanchez being used as a relief pitcher.

Sanchez threw 45 pitches of simulated game conditions Sunday with no apparent adverse effect. If he feels fine on Monday, the Tigers will probably activate him "Wednesday or Thursday," Ausmus said.

About Sanchez's role, Ausmus said "that's to be determined, but he's open to anything. He's open to pitching out of the bullpen and also to starting.

"It's just a question of whether we can build him up to make him an effective starter with so little time left."

Regardless of how he is used, Sanchez would be a welcome asset.

"If you put him down in the 'pen," said Ausmus, "he'd probably have the best stuff down there. That's the simple fact.

"The bigger concern is that he takes a long time to get ready, but in talking to him, he's not worried about that at all. He said he takes that time because he's preparing for six or seven innings.

"But if he's down there (in the bullpen), it wouldn't be an issue for him to get ready quickly for an inning or two."

Saturday revisited

Did Ausmus outsmart the umpires by persuading them to look at Saturday's pivotal play at third in a 3-2 victory as a missed base instead of a tag-up play?

"I didn't outsmart anybody," said Ausmus. "I just presented the evidence. It was completely the umpires call. But the goal is to get the call right."

It's in the direction of getting the call right, instead of being stubborn about their original judgment, that umpires collectively have made huge strides.

"I think as a whole they are more open-minded now than they probably were prior to the season," Ausmus said. "About 15 years ago, Major League Baseball made getting the call right the primary goal. It used to be my way or the highway, right or wrong.

"It began with them meeting in the middle of the diamond trying to get the call right, now we have full-blown instant replay, so it's been an evolution.

"Through that evolution, they've become more open-minded to the idea that we're here to get it right, not to enforce their will.

"You can argue semantics (missed base or tag up)," Ausmus added, "but it's tough to argue that the play was called right.

"People are learning here. The umpires are learning, the managers are learning, the players are learning. It's a little bit of a work in progress."

Around the horn

The Tigers finished with a 45-36 record on the road this year. They were 42-39 last year.

... And while it doesn't compare favorably to what the Tigers draw, the Royals ended the home portion of their season with attendance of 1,956,482 — their largest total since 1991.

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