Tigers' callup primarily played third throughout Minor League career
By Alejandro Zúñiga
DETROIT -- Though Alex Avila was in the lineup at first base again for the Tigers on Sunday, manager Brad Ausmus maintained that the team's usual starting catcher won't assume the corner-infield role on a daily basis.
The club's other options to replace Miguel Cabrera as the slugger recovers from a calf strain are Jefry Marte -- a third baseman by trade -- or utility players Andrew Romine and Josh Wilson. Marte, a 24-year-old power hitter, was called up from Triple-A Toledo on Saturday with the intentions of training him for a move to first.
"[Toledo manager Larry Parrish] thinks he's got the hands and feet, and he's athletic enough that it shouldn't be that difficult of a transition," Ausmus said.
Marte, who will be making his Major League debut, could start Wednesday when the Tigers are scheduled to face Seattle lefty J.A. Happ.
"I'm ready," Marte said in Spanish. "Whenever they need me."
Though the vast majority of his time has been spent at third base, Marte has played in 10 Minor League games at first with the Mets' and Athletics' organizations. He signed with the Tigers last November and was a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.
Avila, who recently spent a week with Marte and the Mud Hens on a rehab assignment, raved about the rookie's bat. The infielder posted a .271/.337/.497 slash line and driven in 55 runs during his first experience at Triple-A.
"He can hit," Avila said. "That's what I saw. He swings the bat hard and hits the ball hard. He hit a few home runs while I was down there, and that's pretty much it with him. He can just flat-out hit."
Detroit continues to determine how it'll handle Cabrera's vacancy at first base, and Avila gave a good audition Saturday afternoon against the Blue Jays. He tumbled into the stands to catch a foul fly and later applied a slick tag to complete the pickoff on a throw from catcher James McCann. More importantly, Ausmus said he couldn't remember Avila being out of position on routine plays.
But Avila's expertise comes behind the plate, so the club will look elsewhere for its everyday first baseman.
"First base is a very underrated defensive position," Ausmus said. "Everyone thinks you throw someone over there and you're fine. It's not that easy."
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.