Tigers likely going with Avila in reserve role

Tigers likely going with Avila in reserve role

DETROIT -- As the Al Avila era as Tigers general manager gets underway, the Alex Avila era as the club's starting catcher might be winding down.

Miguel Cabrera's impending return to the lineup will put an end to Alex Avila's tenure as the Tigers' first baseman. However, it is not going to return him to his previous role as the primary catcher.

"James [McCann] is doing a pretty good job, so he's getting and probably will continue to get the bulk of the playing time," manager Brad Ausmus said before Wednesday night's 7-4 win over the Royals.

With Avila eligible for free agency at season's end, his tenure with the Tigers could well end with him as a part-time or purely backup player, as Detroit works in the next generation of players led by McCann. It would be a quiet ending in Detroit for a catcher who started the All-Star Game four years ago.

It's not simply a youth movement, but a results play.

McCann took over the primary catching duties for close to two months while Avila rehabbed and strengthened his left knee. Avila returned from the disabled list in early July on the same day Cabrera tweaked his left calf, forcing him onto the DL.

Avila split time with McCann behind the plate most of July while filling in at first base. When left-handed hitter Marc Krauss was optioned to Triple-A Toledo, Avila stepped in as Detroit's left-handed-hitting first baseman for the final week of July and beyond.

Avila handled himself well in the field, but while his strike-zone judgment was sharp, his bat was not. He entered Wednesday with more walks (25) than base this (21), and nearly twice as many strikeouts (41).

Meanwhile, McCann has taken a leadership role behind the plate, not just with Tigers pitchers, but with many on the team. He also has held his own at the plate -- .281 average with five homers and 26 RBIs. As a result, he has been all but the everyday catcher lately, with Wednesday marking his 13th start in 15 games. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the series finale.

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.