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Cleared by MLB medical panel, Avila feels fine in return

Tigers catcher able to track ball despite 0-for-4, three-whiff performance

DETROIT -- The Tigers' lineup Monday night waited on Alex Avila getting clearance from a Major League Baseball medical panel to return to action that evening. The clearance came about an hour before game time for their series opener against the White Sox.

"It was as late as we've had a lineup go up," manager Brad Ausmus said after the 2-0 loss at Comerica Park.

It was Avila's first game action since the Tigers' last home game eight days earlier, when a blow to the side of his head from a pickoff tag caused lightheadedness that eventually forced him out of the game. It was later called a concussion once dizziness and disorientation kept him out for the rest of the week.

That time off seemingly reflected in an 0-for-4, three-strikeout performance. Though Avila had taken batting practice and faced live pitching in Anibal Sanchez's simulated game Sunday, he hadn't caught game-action pitches. Tracking pitches at game speed is expected to be key.

However, Avila and Ausmus were hesitant to pin the results on rust.

"It's a little different, live [batting practice] to a game," Avila said. "It was a tough 0-for-4, but I'm not going to blame it on not playing for a week."

Said Ausmus: "Maybe a little bit, but I wouldn't say that was the cause."

Rest or rust, Avila said it was not a reflection of any difficulty tracking the ball, saying he felt fine. His medical clearance included follow-up impact tests taken early Monday afternoon, according to Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.

"First and foremost, you get him symptom-free. We've been there for a while now, as far as his symptoms are concerned," Rand said. "Then you have to take him through some light activity. Then you have to take him through some baseball-specific activity and maintain that he stays symptom-free. Then, you have to repeat impact testing, which is a concussion-testing protocol, which we have a baseline on. Then, we have to do a SCAT3, which is a concussion assessment."

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