Avila yields to McCann, considers future
Re-signing with Detroit would likely mean part-time role behind plate
DETROIT -- Alex Avila has been on the other side of this.
Five years ago, Avila was the young catcher in his first full Major League season being tested behind the plate as the season wrapped up without a postseason race. Gerald Laird was the veteran transitioning from starting catcher to a role player. While Laird's contract was ending, Avila's time was just beginning.
A year later, Avila caught every pitch of Justin Verlander's no-hitter in Toronto, the first pitches of the All-Star Game and nearly every pitch of the Tigers' postseason run, solidifying his role as the regular behind the plate in Detroit.
As Avila heads into the home stretch of the 2015 regular season, his view is increasingly from the dugout while James McCann takes over at catcher. And as his father, Al Avila, settles in as the Tigers' general manager, the younger Avila -- still just 28 -- is pondering a free-agent decision this offseason as a probable part-time catcher in Detroit or pursuing possibilities somewhere else.
"Nothing lasts forever," Avila said. "[McCann has] been doing a great job, and between injuries and play, that's what happens in baseball. Everybody at some point goes through it. We'll see as far as the end of the season where my career kind of transitions, whether I'm a platoon or backup guy, or how that plays out. But right now, every time I'm in the lineup, I just go play hard."
Avila started behind the plate Sunday with a day game after a night game Sunday. It was his third start at catcher in August, and his fourth in the past three weeks. Avila made six starts in same stretch at first base filling in for injured Miguel Cabrera.
With Cabrera back, Avila's need at first base is over. But while Avila stepped in there, McCann filled the catching role superbly, much as he had done while Avila missed two months with a left knee injury earlier this year. And a season that was expected to be a gradual buildup for McCann is now the season in which he grabbed a regular role.
Avila, meanwhile, is trying to adjust. The bright side through the uneven season is that he has avoided the wear and tear he had to endure the past four years. The downside, of course, is sitting, especially with numbers Avila would like to improve at the plate, with a .173 (24-for-139) average and a .570 OPS.
"At this point, for the rest of this season for me, I go through every single day trying to figure out a routine that will best keep me prepared," Avila said. "That's really all I can do."
At season's end, Avila will have to decide what's best for his career, family considerations or no. Al Avila's introductory remarks a couple weeks ago signaled that the father-son relationship wouldn't play into their new GM-player dynamic any more than it played into decisions the last five years.
"As awkward as it has been, it's also been a blessing," Al Avila said. "It's a very unique situation. And sometimes it runs its course, I don't know. It is what it is, and as a family, we deal with it."