Leyland plays waiting game at catcher

Leyland plays waiting game at catcher

DETROIT -- While manager Jim Leyland weighs how to handle third base with Brandon Inge out, his catching situation remains a platoon. He's going to mix and match Gerald Laird with Alex Avila and wait to see if one of them heats up enough at the plate to warrant more playing time.

He said as much to each of them in private meetings recently, and he said the same to reporters Tuesday night.

"The other day I talked to both of them," Leyland said. "I said, 'I feel like I've pretty much given both of you a chance to take the job -- not give you the job, but for one of you to take the job. And up to this point, neither one of you have. And that's the way I'm going to continue to work.'

"The job is wide open. Whoever plays the best is going to play the most. And you can't put it any fairer than that. That's just the way it stands. If it keeps going like this, I'm going to keep tinkering with it and alternating until hopefully somebody gets really hot."

That really hasn't happened all season, but Laird and Avila had been particularly cold since the All-Star break. Laird picked up a huge hit Wednesday, though, when he took Colby Lewis deep for a two-run homer in the second inning. That broke Laird out of an 0-for-8 slump; Avila entered the game mired in an 0-for-6 skid.

"It's important for us," Leyland said of Laird's homer. "It's important for Gerald. I think that was a big thing for him. Hopefully that will get him going. It was a big contribution. He also caught a great game. He's playing [Thursday] against the lefty. But that was huge for us. It helped us win a ballgame."

Tigers catchers combined for a .201 average, six home runs and 27 RBIs entering Monday. Their .564 OPS ranked dead last in the Majors for catching combinations. Correspondingly, neither Avila nor Laird has started more than four consecutive games at any point this season. Avila started the first two games out of the All-Star break before Laird start the weekend games. Avila started the first two games against Texas, then Laird got the start Wednesday night.