Tigers making sure they keep Avila fresh

Tigers making sure they keep Avila fresh

DETROIT -- Nothing Alex Avila could have done would have kept him from wearing down. The key was how quickly he got back up.

The last few days have been a pretty good time for it.

"At this point in the year, we're in first place now and we have a couple months left in the season," Avila said on Thursday. "You kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel. You can see it, you can almost taste it, and you want to do everything you can to help the team win and get to the playoffs. It's the time of year you work out for and you play for."

As an everyday catcher for the first time in his career, playing in one of the hottest summers so far on modern record in Detroit, Avila anticipated wearing down. The offseason workout program he endured was intended to mitigate that, not prevent it altogether. Add in a spat of foul balls that left a mark, and Avila took a beating.

What manager Jim Leyland has tried to do lately is to time days off to give Avila a rest after admittedly overplaying him for a stretch leading into the All-Star break. He had that in mind Thursday when he gave Avila the game off in favor of Victor Martinez behind the plate for Brad Penny. Avila is expected to catch all three games in Kansas City this weekend, when temperatures are expected to hit the mid-90s.

Part of it, though, is a learning process.

"You do have to learn how to play a lot as a catcher," Leyland said, "but you're never not going to get tired. It doesn't matter what kind of shape you're in, who you are. You get tired. That's just the way it is."

At some point, with some adjustments and some conditioning, they push through it. That appears to be what Avila is going through now.

Plenty has been made about the statistical differences in Avila's hitting from July to August. But the best comparison might be in total bases. Avila had 17 total bases -- 11 singles, three doubles -- in 23 July games. With home runs in back-to-back games along with two singles, Avila has 10 total bases already in August.

"I love playing," Avila said. "For me, you get into a groove, you get into a routine where every day is the same thing, and it's really a nice routine. But I know why he gives me a day off. It's a grueling position."