Avila, whose left knee soreness was once expected to require surgery and keep him out until the All-Star break, beat the timetable by just over a week, and more importantly avoided the procedure. The injury, originally diagnosed as a loose bodies in his left knee, cost him about two months of action before Detroit activated him from the DL on Friday.
"There was a point where surgery was a possibility -- it might have been a necessity," Avila said. "To be honest with you, I thought at that point my season was, if not done, pretty close to it. I'm getting to play today, so I'm pretty thankful for that."
With Avila back, manager Brad Ausmus now has a veteran catcher and a left-handed bat to mix into a heavily right-handed hitting lineup. How Avila and James McCann share the time is another matter -- the rookie filled in well in Avila's place -- but Ausmus has indicated they will form a righty-lefty platoon.
"I feel great," Avila said. "I haven't been thinking about my knee. It hasn't been bothering me."
Avila batted just .200 (12-for-60) with two homers and eight RBIs in 22 games before going on the DL. He actually drew more walks (13) than hits, boosting his on-base percentage. His primary value, though, was in handling a retinkered pitching staff, a role McCann filled well in his absence, and Ausmus has maintained that Avila's biggest contributions will come from behind the dish.
"It's been two months, so it's been a lengthy vacation," Avila said. "I'm extremely excited -- a little nervous, actually."
In six games with Triple-A Toledo, during which he alternated catching and starting at designated hitter, Avila went 6-for-20 with a home run. His knee had improved enough that Avila caught back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday ahead of schedule.
To make room for Avila, the Tigers optioned Bryan Holaday to Triple-A. Holaday, who backed up Avila last season, came up from the Mud Hens when Avila went on the DL, then batted .271 (13-for-48) with three doubles, a home run and 12 RBIs, while backing up McCann.
"He knew it was coming for sure," Ausmus said. "He did an excellent job. He's swung the bat a lot better than he did a year ago, and he's got great energy when he's here. It's good to have a guy like Doc who's got that -- he's like a jack-in-the-box, he's got so much energy, and he's constantly sweating, so it looks like he's working hard. He'll be missed. But I'm sure we'll see him again at some point."