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Ailing Avila's status for Game 6 up in the air

BOSTON -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland returned to town Friday afternoon still not sure whether he will have catcher Alex Avila available to play Saturday in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series vs. the Red Sox (8 p.m. ET on FOX). He also wasn't sure who might catch if Avila can't go.

He has not ruled out Victor Martinez.

"That has been thought about, yes," Leyland said on a Friday conference call with reporters.

It's a possibility the Tigers have kept open all along for the postseason -- but for the World Series, not the ALCS. If the Tigers advance, they'll lose the designated hitter for Games 3-5 in the NL city, either St. Louis or Los Angeles. Martinez, 7-for-18 in this series and 16-for-38 in the postseason, would have to find a position in the field in those games. He caught three times down the stretch in the regular season without any problems to be prepared.

This is different. Martinez, whose days as even a semi-regular catcher ended with knee surgery last year, could bat in the designated-hitter spot in Boston. However, Avila's absence could leave Leyland deciding whether it's best to catch Brayan Pena and leave everyone else alone, or catch Martinez, move Miguel Cabrera to DH and play one of his utility infielders at third.

Leyland isn't ready to take the discussion that far.

"It would be an option, let me put it that way, that you could DH Miggy and catch Victor and then, obviously, play [Ramon] Santiago or Donnie Kelly at third," Leyland said. "I don't think that's going to happen, but it would be an option if Alex were not able to play."

As for Avila, Leyland said the catcher was still dealing with some soreness in his left knee when the Tigers boarded their team plane for Boston on Friday. They won't make an evaluation until Saturday.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Leyland said. "I have no idea. I'm hoping Alex Avila can catch. That decision will be way down the road yet."

Leyland said Friday that the left knee, where Avila strained a left patellar tendon, is the only concern. The second-inning plate collision with David Ross eventually knocked Avila out of the game, but the foul tip he took -- also from Ross -- off his catching mask a couple of innings later might have shaken him up more.

It was reminiscent of the foul tip that gave Avila a concussion in August at Cleveland. The one major difference is that while the August foul hit him on the side of his head, jarring his lightweight mask, Thursday's foul ball hit him square in the front of the mask, right on the chin.

"That was a good one," Avila said. "I guess I can say that's one win for the heavier mask, because I feel fine."

Leyland said he didn't realize how hard that foul tip was until he talked on the phone with his good friend, former Major League manager and catcher Don Zimmer, who watched it on television.

"It was a good one, there's no question about it," Leyland said. "He got smoked pretty good, and because of the previous issues that he'd had, I was also a little concerned about that. But the trainers checked him out. There did not appear to be any issues, but it does ring your bell a little bit, obviously. The main reason he was taken out of the game, obviously, was because of his knee, [which was] very, very sore, throbbing constantly. The foul ball actually had nothing to do with it."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for
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