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Avila cleared to play Friday after taking foul tip

NEW YORK -- Alex Avila is OK. He says so, the CT scan taken in Cleveland says so and more tests taken by team physician Dr. Michael Workings in Detroit say so.

"He went through tests with me for about an hour," Avila said. "I probably could say it's the only one I passed with all A's. ... It's not a test you try to cheat on. Trust me, the reason why I'm here is I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that I'm physically and mentally capable of playing."

He may be capable of playing, but the team still felt that a day off is a good idea. Thus, although Avila was initially in the starting lineup for Friday's series opener against the Yankees, Brayan Pena made the start behind the plate.

Avila left Thursday night's win at Cleveland in the fifth inning complaining of dizziness and nausea after being hit by a foul tip in the previous frame. Initially, he told manager Jim Leyland and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand that he felt fine, but the symptoms emerged later.

"It was a little strange," Avila said on Friday. "It got me in the face mask, but it got me in the [left] ear, which is probably the reason for it. I mean, I've had some [foul tips] that probably looked a lot worse but didn't have cause for me to come out of the game. I felt terrible coming out of the game."

Having gone through this process before, however, he knew better than to mess around.

Thursday's exit the second time in as many years that Avila left a game in Cleveland with concussion symptoms. After colliding with first baseman Prince Fielder in front of the Tigers' dugout chasing a popup last September, he experienced similar symptoms and ended up missing four games.

"I know what to look for, and when I see it, I have to let Kevin know," Avila said.

Two other catchers in the American League Central have ended up on the seven-day concussion disabled list in the past week, both because of foul balls off the mask. Minnesota's Ryan Doumit felt ill after being hit on Wednesday, and Kansas City's Salvador Perez went on the DL last weekend after experiencing headaches.

Avila has taken plenty of other foul tips that looked as bad or worse, but not with the same symptoms. And every time there's a new incident, the question comes back as to why he seems to catch so much more collateral damage from those. Leyland has been saying it for years, but it's not just Tigers people saying it anymore.

A Major League scout who was at Thursday's game said on Friday that he hasn't seen anything like it, but can't really figure out why. Avila said he gets that a lot.

"I mean, any time we play a different team and I get hit, I always hear, 'Man, you get hit more than anybody I've seen,'" he said. "Catchers, other position players, they all say the same thing. I mean, I don't know why it happens. It's just part of the game, I guess.

"We have guys that throw hard, guys that are tough to center, so you get more foul balls. They always tend to be on balls that, when I'm set up on one side or the other, the ball's going toward the middle."

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