Avila aiming to begin rehab stint on Thursday

Avila aiming to begin rehab stint on Thursday

CLEVELAND -- Alex Avila's strength has always been his control of the opposing running game, not how he runs the bases himself. Yet as he took the field on Monday afternoon, the Tigers' medical staff put him through the rigors of hard baserunning, trying to test his left knee.

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Avila came through it fine. If he can say the same for the next couple days, he'll start a Minor League rehab assignment that could get him on the field by the end of next week.

"If all goes well Wednesday [running bases and catching a bullpen session], we're hoping he can go on a rehab on Thursday," manager Brad Ausmus said.

Avila would rehab with Triple-A Toledo, Ausmus said. The Mud Hens are on the road this week at Durham and Norfolk before returning home next week. Most likely, Avila will alternate games between catcher and DH for seven or eight days, gradually progressing how deep into the game he catches. Though Avila has said his knee doesn't bother him catching, the Tigers want to stretch him out gradually behind the plate.

That would put Avila on a path to potentially return to action for the Fourth of July weekend against the Blue Jays at Comerica Park. That, in turn, would once again give the Tigers a lefty-righty hitting mix at catcher.

Avila hasn't played in a game since May 7, though he played through discomfort in his left knee for some time before that. He has spent the past month and a half trying to strengthen the knee without needing surgery.

It's the stretching of the leg that has put Avila's knee to the test, which makes his baserunning drills a better test for him than a catching squat.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.