Avila returns to Tigers lineup, looks to get caught up

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Jupiter, Fla. — You have to trust him on this; if there was something he could do to prevent his back from random stiffness and spasms, he would do it.

"Sometimes getting out of a chair can do it," Alex Avila said with a shrug. "I've no idea. It's probably a combination of a whole bunch of things. I can't really pinpoint one thing that threw my back."

Avila has been out of the lineup since the first inning last Wednesday, when the back pain flared up. He missed a couple of days earlier this spring with it and he also missed a couple of days for the birth of his daughter, Zoey.

He was back in the starting lineup here Monday against the Cardinals.

"Spring training, you're getting ready for the season, so when nagging injuries come up, you make sure you take care of them because you don't want them to linger," he said.

Avila has only seven at-bats this spring and has yet to catch new Tigers starts Shane Greene and Alfredo Simon in a game.

"There's three weeks left in the spring so I'm not really worried about that," he said. "After catching them a few times, you know what their stuff does. Catching them over time, maybe a month or so to get really a good feel as far as how they like to pitch, what they like to throw in certain situations — but that all comes with time."

Avila was supposed to be getting some work in at first base, as a potential fill-in should Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez not be ready to play opening day. But manager Brad Ausmus said Sunday that those plans were on hold for now.

"Missing this much time is not ideal," Ausmus said. "We still have time left. Maybe at some point (he will play some at first) but we need him to catch a little bit right now."

Most important is taking care of the back. Avila has had back issues, usually spasms, dating back to his college days.

"Rest, getting myself treatment, getting realigned — all that stuff," he said. "I do what I can to prevent it but sometimes it just happens and I have to take care of it."

Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, out since Thursday with a quad strain, was in the lineup as the designated hitter Monday. He is listed as the starting left fielder Tuesday at Lakeland, but that is dependent on how the leg feels in the morning.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler, out since Friday with a left shoulder strain, is expected to start Tuesday, as well.