Alex Avila, normally the starting catcher, was in the lineup at first base on Saturday. Avila split time at the position in college, worked out at first during Spring Training and played parts of two games there this season entering Saturday. But the Tigers want to be cautious with Avila, who came off the disabled list Friday after recovering from a left-knee injury that they initially feared would end his season.
"It's going to be day to day [at first base]," said manager Brad Ausmus.
The club's other options at the moment are Jefry Marte, whom they called up from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday morning, and utility infielders Josh Wilson and Andrew Romine. Designated hitter Victor Martinez, who has played 198 games at first but has also spent significant time this year on the DL with knee pain, is "not on the radar at this point," according to Ausmus.
"I would be concerned about putting Victor at first and then losing him for an extended period of time," Ausmus said. "Victor, in my mind, is not an option."
Ausmus said the club will consider training a Minor Leaguer at first base, and Detroit may look to add depth through a trade. Jordan Lennerton and Mike Hessman are the first basemen at Toledo, and both are batting below .250.
"Not a lot of Minor League free agents want to sign with a team that has Miguel Cabrera playing first base and has a long-term contract," Ausmus said. "That's part of the reason we're thin at that position."
Avila, who spent time Saturday morning fielding grounders to prepare for his new role, didn't set high expectations for how he'll perform at the position. He said he wouldn't have too much difficulty remembering the footwork, but gauging balls hit into the 3-4 hole may present challenges.
"I'm not going to be amazing over there by any means, but I think I'll do adequate," Avila said.
Marte should provide a power bat to Detroit's dangerous lineup. The 24-year-old hit 13 home runs and posted a .271/.337/.497 slash line in 77 games with the Mud Hens. A third baseman by trade, he has split time at first with other organizations.