Avila sustained the injury behind the plate in Game 1 when he took a foul tip off his arm, between his wrist and his elbow. He was able to play through it in Game 3 on Saturday night, but head athletic trainer Kevin Rand went into manager Jim Leyland's office Sunday afternoon and told him Avila probably wouldn't be able to go.
"It's on the bone, and it's pretty sore," Leyland said.
Gerald Laird, who has started against left-handed pitchers for most of the season while backing up Avila, will start in Avila's place.
At this point, Avila would be available in an emergency situation.
"I'd probably run him in there to catch if I had to," Leyland said. "But just as far as I know, the trainer told me just a little bit ago it's probably best not to go with him. Obviously, yesterday I talked to the trainer, felt like he was OK to go and OK to play."
Avila's bumps and bruises are well known in Detroit, given his reputation for taking a lot of foul tips off his body. He has dealt with knee issues in each of the last two seasons, spent time on the disabled list in June with a right hamstring strain, then missed a couple days in September with concussion-like symptoms sustained in a collision with Prince Fielder.
Avila was behind the plate in 22 of Game 4 starter Max Scherzer's 32 appearances this season, twice as many as Laird. Scherzer's strikeout-to-walk ratio was about double with Avila behind the plate, but his strikeout rate also wavered as the season progressed.