BOSTON -- Brad Ausmus had experience being the personal catcher for pitchers during his playing career. At one point during his Astros tenure, he said, he caught four of the five starters, with his backup catching the other. If he had starting pitchers who preferred and did better with a particular catcher, he wouldn't rule it out.
However, as the Tigers rekindle their catching mix of James McCann and Alex Avila, they're not likely to split up pitchers.
"I think the starting pitcher is a very important part of the game. If there was a preference, I might tend to heed it at times," Ausmus said, "but I think both catchers have the ability to work with all the starting pitchers."
McCann officially returned from the disabled list Friday and got the start, restoring the Tigers' catching mix with Avila. But Avila's strong start has put a different look to the mix. Instead of the left-handed-batting Avila starting against just tough right-handers, he'll likely get more starts against righties overall, with McCann facing lefties.
Still, given the concern about wearing down Avila and risking injury, Ausmus is hesitant to call it a righty-lefty platoon.
"It won't be a strict platoon necessarily," Ausmus said, "because there's going to be times when a catcher needs to rest, regardless of who's pitching that day. But it'll be platoon-oriented to a degree, I think."
Regardless, Ausmus said, it'll be determined more by the opposing starter than their own. Both McCann and Avila have strong reputations with their defense and the way they call a game, which makes sense since McCann came up learning under Avila two years ago.
"I think both catchers are capable of handling our pitchers," Ausmus said. "They've both caught them enough. No pitcher has ever told me they have a preference for one guy or another. It'll be mainly on the opposing pitcher. I have confidence in both catchers defensively."
With McCann back from his lacerated left hand, the Tigers optioned catcher/first baseman John Hicks to Triple-A Toledo. Though the right-handed-hitting Hicks enjoyed a strong start at the plate and surpassed expectations behind it, he was not going to supplant McCann as the right-handed-hitting half of a catching platoon.