Ailments a factor behind Avila's production

Ailments a factor behind Avila's production

Ailments a factor behind Avila's production
TORONTO -- After a career year in 2011, Alex Avila hasn't provided the Tigers with the same production he did last season.

The backstop, who is batting .238 with six homers, 27 RBIs and a .722 OPS, sat in favor of Gerald Laird for Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays. Manager Jim Leyland elected to stack his lineup with right-handers versus Blue Jays lefty Brett Cecil.

Avila has battled a variety of ailments this season, including a right hamstring strain that forced him to the disabled list in June. The injury is something Leyland believes has taken its toll on the 25-year-old.

"He takes a beating. I do think his knee is bothering him at times this year, and I don't think he has been able to push off it in certain games -- not all the games, but certain games," Leyland said.

Avila has suffered through tendinitis in his left knee, which has likely been compounded into a lingering issue based on his workload behind the dish.

"I do think at different points of the season, in fairness to Alex without questioning him because he is so tough, he has gone out there several times when he is not 100 percent," Leyland said. "That's certainly to his defense."

Avila broke out in a big way last season, batting .295 with 19 homers and 82 RBIs. His .895 OPS and .389 on- base percentage led all Major League catchers, while he ranked among the top five in doubles (33), home runs and RBIs.

Leyland said he did not expect Avila to provide that sort of production this season, but also didn't expect him to be hitting the way he has. The skipper felt Avila would be somewhere in between, and is confident he can find his stroke over the final two months of the year.

"I like Alex. The facts are, last year he had a huge year and he's not doing quite as well this year, obviously -- for whatever reasons," Leyland said. "Anybody that can read and write knows the numbers aren't the same.

"He doesn't panic. He's a heck of a player and I love him."

Avila has turned the page slightly on what was his worst offensive month of the season in June. He's batting .230 with a .688 OPS, along with 13 walks in July. To Avila's credit, his patience at the plate has led to a respectable .341 OBP this season.