DETROIT -- After signing Gerald Laird during the offseason to serve as backup catcher to Alex Avila, the plan was to limit Avila's innings in an attempt to keep him fresh. Avila has said that he's feeling good, and he's enjoying his best month of the season -- posting an August batting average of .375 going into Friday's opener with the Orioles -- so it would appear that the plan has worked. However, neither he nor manager Jim Leyland credit an innings limit.
"I think people get carried away with that stuff. I think they make way too much of it," Leyland said. "The plan was to try and watch him a little bit, but I don't know if the plan worked or not. ... I don't want to sit here and say I had some master plan that really worked out. It's more of a common sense thing, but people seem to get wrapped up in all that stuff a lot more than I do."
It's been well documented that Avila caught the second-most innings in the Major Leagues in 2011. It's also been well documented that he was a bit worn down toward the end of the season. Even so, Avila's never been on a strict innings count at any point this season.
"It wasn't like we set out [saying], 'OK, well, you're only going to catch a certain amount of innings' and things like that," Avila said. "Just ... that Gerald is going to be the backup and that was it. He was going to play as my backup, and it would be [that] I get a day or two off a week."
Rather than fewer innings, Avila's resurgence at the plate could be chalked up to the MRI that eased his mind. He dealt with soreness in his left knee throughout the first half of the season and had the test performed in July. The procedure revealed no ligament damage, he was told he risked no damage.
"It was huge. I mean, it's a big weight off my shoulder," Avila said. "Constantly thinking about how hurt I was or if I'm doing any damage that could hurt me for the rest of my career kind of thing. The doctor actually told me it looked great.
"After I had the MRI and basically started taking anti-inflammatories and going through a treatment plan just to knock out the inflammation and some of the pain, ever since then I felt pretty good."
Entering Friday's game, the 25-year-old had a .260 season average -- up 19 points from the end of July -- with seven home runs and 35 RBIs. He was moved up to fifth in the batting order against Orioles starter Tommy Hunter.