Christopher Ilitch follows Tigers’ progress ‘on a daily basis,’ Al Avila says

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
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Christopher Ilitch

Detroit — Al Avila and Christopher Ilitch don't talk every day, but they talk regularly, the general manager said Friday.

Avila spoke to reporters after Ilitch, in a press release and not in person, announced a multi-year contract extension for Avila. Avila said Ilitch, officially the Tigers' CEO, is very tuned in to the organization's progress  or lack thereof, as the case may be.

"He does follow the organization on a daily basis," Avila said.

The Tigers' focus these days is much more in the minor leagues than the often sub-par play at the major-league level.

Avila and his staff pore over reports daily, from minor-league managers, pitching coaches and hitting coaches, getting regular reviews on prospects.

"We get those reports on a regular basis, day-to-day reports we all read every single day," Avila said. "And he gets those. He goes through that. At times, he'll call me and question me about, 'What about this guy, this guy's injury, is he hurt again?' that kind of stuff.

"I do have regular conversations with him and obviously he's involved in all of our moves. He's aware of them."

Ilitch attended spring training and first approached Avila then about a possible extension, Avila said. Avila said he urged Ilitch to hold off until during the season. The deal was done Friday, more than a year before Avila's original contract was set to expire.

International guidelines

The Tigers and Avila are enjoying the new international signing rules, which provide teams with a pool of money, rather than a free-for-all on the open market. The Tigers signed 12 players during the international signing period, headlined by Cuban outfielder Roberto Campos, a 16-year-old who got a $3-million signing bonus.

The Tigers long have been on the short end of the stick when it comes to international signings. They're hoping things get better on that front.

"Before, a team could go out there and give a guy $20 million and pay $20 million in taxes, a young 17-year-old could cost us $40 million," Avila said. "Quite frankly, for us that doesn't work out.

"It's a more competitive field (now). We've been aggressive."

Avila said he and his staff are preparing for the possibility of an international draft in the coming years, in terms of scouting-department staffing.

Around the horn

Longtime Tigers television broadcaster Mario Impemba made his return to Comerica Park on Friday night as part of the Red Sox radio team. Impemba and Rod Allen were dismissed after last season, following a late-season scuffle in the booth in Chicago.

... The Tigers media staff paid tribute to late Red Sox beat reporter Nick Cafardo, who died suddenly during spring training. The Tigers left a bouquet of flowers at his press seat. Cafardo's book with Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy came out this month.

... How far have the Tigers actually come in terms of analytics? Avila said the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees are head-and-shoulders above everybody else in baseball, but "apart from that, I think we're the best or at least among the best."

... Avila suggested lefty Tyler Alexander, who made his major-league debut Wednesday, will continue to get more starts this season. The Tigers have to decide at season's end whether to protect him and keep on the 40-man roster.

... Outfielder Victor Reyes (.435, 11 doubles, five homers at Triple A) and left-hander Tarik Skubal (0.39 ERA, 35 strikeouts in 23 innings at Single-A Lakeland) were named the Tigers' minor-league player and pitcher of the month for June.

... The Tigers placed right-handed reliever Victor Alcantara on the injured list after he had his wisdom teeth removed. Left-hander Ryan Carpenter was recalled from Toledo.

... Left-hander Jose Fernandez cleared waivers and now heads to Toledo.

Red Sox at Tigers

First pitch: 4:10 p.m. Saturday, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM


►RHP Rick Porcello (5-7, 5.07), Red Sox: It's been a tough go for the former Tiger, who's in the walk year of his contract. Last time out, he lasted one-third of an inning, shellacked by the Yankees in London.

►RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-5, 5-36), Tigers: The veteran continues to search for that first win of 2019; the Tigers have lost his last seven starts. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.07) is the worst of his career.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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