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Ilitch, CEO of Ilitch Holdings, commends Al Avila and Tigers staff on the progression and aggressiveness of the team's rebuilding efforts. Chris McCosky

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Lakeland, Fla. – It may be too early to talk about extending the contract of Tigers general manager Al Avila – he has three years left on it – but it’s clear his boss likes both his plan and how he is executing it.

“I am thrilled with the work Al is doing and that of his staff,” said Christopher Ilitch, the chairman and CEO of Ilitch Holdings and the Detroit Tigers. “He’s built a tremendous staff, not only in the front office but throughout the scouting ranks and player development – it’s a really talented team.”

Ilitch, who has been at TigerTown all week, spoke to the media Saturday prior to the Tigers-Rays exhibition game. He has spent time with nearly every department – player development, analytics and scouting -- during his visit.

“My vision is to ensure we build a franchise and a team that will win over the long term and be contending for world series championships in the future,” Ilitch said. “Al Avila and his staff have really put together what I think is an excellent plan. Their vision has been aggressively implemented.”

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He praised Avila for expanding the staffs and resources in the areas of scouting, analytics and player development.

“These are the things that lead toward our ability to acquire top talent and develop them on a timetable that will make the Tigers a highly-competitive team as quickly as possible,” Ilitch said. “I’ve been impressed with the technology and innovation Al and his baseball operations staff are testing to measure player performance and scouting over the course of time.

“Our baseball operations team has been very progressive and very aggressive and I support them whole-heartedly. I really like the direction we are headed. Al and his staff are doing a tremendous job of moving us in the right direction.”

There is a chance Opening Day won’t be sold out in Detroit, something that hasn’t happened in more than a decade. Ilitch was unfazed.

“I think this year will be very exciting at Comerica Park,” he said. “Because it’s going to be a year of growth and development. And I think at a foundation level are fans are going to see so many prospects coming through our system, they are going to grow and develop right before their own eyes.

“Undoubtedly, there are going to be wins and there are going to be losses. But our young prospects are going to grow and that’s going to lead to us building a team that can win on a sustainable basis and ultimately compete for world series championships.”

Ilitch wouldn’t answer any questions about the Red Wings, whose general manager Ken Holland is working without a contract beyond this season.

“I am in Lakeland, Florida,” he said. “I will be glad to answer any questions about the Tigers.”

Twitter @cmccosky

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