Tigers' Avila champing at the bit to get back

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cincinnati — This has not been a particularly easy time for Alex Avila.

It's the longest stretch of forced inactivity due to injury of his career. The rehab process, especially for a catcher with a left knee injury, has been slow and arduous. And on top of that, the team has been scuffling.

"It's obviously difficult," he said before the game Thursday. "I am so used to playing every single day. When you sit and watch and can't do anything, you feel useless. It's my job to go out and play and help the team win, and I can't do anything."

Avila has been out since May 8. He just resumed baseball activities two weeks ago. His patience is running thin.

"Sometimes you want to feel sorry for yourself, but you can't," he said. "You just continue to do what you can do to get back."

To that end, he threw to all three bases from a crouch position and did stationary blocking drills for the first time Thursday and said he felt good.

"This is how I would progress in spring training," he said. "This week is a little mini-spring training for me."

Friday will be a big day for him. He will run at full speed for the first time. He will also begin catching bullpens, both this weekend in New York and continuing through the Cleveland series.

If all goes well, he could start his rehab assignment when the team comes home next week. Avila expects he will need four or five games to build up his catching legs. Manager Brad Ausmus, a former catcher, expects it could be longer.

"I am not really sure how many games he will need to play in rehab," he said. "He will have to catch three innings one game, then maybe DH the next, then catch five innings in a game and DH the next. He will have to build it up."

Ausmus, who missed three months with a back injury late in his career, said his rehab was eight games — four catching, four as the designated hitter.

"The key is being able to catch back-to-back and seeing how I feel after that," Avila said. "I don't know how long that will be."

In the meantime, Avila is doing what he can to be of assistance.

"I help out James (McCann) and Bryan (Holaday) before the game, talking about the pitchers with Jonesy (pitching coach Jeff Jones)," he said. "But there is only so much you can do when you aren't on the field actively doing it. There is a line there."

Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky