Lakeland, Fla. — Alex Avila bunted in all three of his at-bats Sunday and only one was a sacrifice.
Since he mostly hits balls on the ground to the right side of the infield, he faces a relatively extreme defensive shift nearly every at-bat. The Tigers wanted him to work on trying to bunt the ball to the left side against the shift.
Avila’s not entirely sure how practical it will be in-season.
“I would say maybe it’ll get you one (extra hit) in the season,” he said. “Like on that last one, they are going to play the shortstop on the grass (on the left side) until there’s two strikes. Unless they over-shift and there’s nobody there — the only time that ever happened last year was with two outs and you don’t want to do that with two outs.”
He got all three bunts down, but none were close to the left-field line and wouldn’t have gotten him a hit even if the left side was completely empty.
“It’s was the wrong day to work on it,” Avila said with a laugh. “The guy on the mound was throwing bowling ball sinkers up there … I’m just working on it, but how much I’m going to use it, I have no idea.
“I’ve always had a knack for getting on base, so I am not worried about it.”
Manager Brad Ausmus believes there is a benefit to it.
“A perfect example, he’s hitting in the ninth, down a run and he’s leading off,” Ausmus said. “If he can bunt his way onto first and we pinch-run for him, that could be the game-tying run. I think it’s something he should be able to do, so we worked on it today by design.”
Every year he works on a change-up and every year he abandons it for the regular season. Avila is going to make sure Jordan Zimmermann keeps throwing it this year.
“For sure,” Avila said. “If I’m catching, he’ll use it. It’s a pretty good one. He can definitely use it to lefties and he threw it to righties today. It’s got good action and he seems to feel comfortable throwing it.”
Zimmermann got a strikeout and a ground out with the change-up Sunday.
“I hope so,” he said when asked if he planned to keep the pitch in his tool box for the regular season. “It was good today. I was mixing it in more and it feels good coming out of my hand. It’s down in the zone. I will take into the season with me.”
Around the horn
Miguel Cabrera (back) made his return to the lineup Sunday, batting twice with an RBI single. He also made a diving stop of a ball in the first inning.