Avila eager to wage 'friendly' AL Central rivalry

Newly signed White Sox catcher ready to battle against former club

Avila eager to wage 'friendly' AL Central rivalry

CHICAGO -- Alex Avila holds great memories from his seven years catching in Detroit, including significant contributions made to the Tigers reaching the postseason from 2011-14.

Those friendships and bonds formed certainly won't break now that Avila has left Motown. But as the newest member of the White Sox, his focus shifts greatly within the American League Central.

"Obviously, seven years is a long time in this game, so there's a lot of relationships I have [in Detroit]," Avila said during a Monday afternoon conference call. "It will actually be nice to be able to see everybody off the field.

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> "At the same time," Avila quickly and stridently added. "I can't wait to kick their [butt]."

Rogers on Avila signing

The left-handed-hitting Avila comes to the White Sox off of a 2015 season where he hit .191 with four homers and 13 RBIs over 67 games. He missed time from May 8 to July with a bone bruise in his left knee, but even within this injury-plagued season, Avila still was able to get on base at a .339 clip.

When it became apparent that Avila wouldn't return to the Tigers, a team where his father, Al, serves as the general manager, the 28-year-old was looking for a situation where he had the opportunity to play. The White Sox, with the right-handed-hitting Tyler Flowers in place, became a good fit.

Avila on signing with White Sox

"I had talked to [White Sox general manager] Rick [Hahn]," Alex Avila said. "When we were going through the whole process, to me it seemed like that opportunity was going to be there with me and Tyler splitting time and letting [manager] Robin [Ventura] kind of use both of our strengths in order to be as productive as possible."

Avila knows AL Central hitters, certainly far better than he would have known hitters going to another division or the National League. He also has familiarity with the White Sox pitching staff, through playing against them and even having been college teammates with closer David Robertson at the University of Alabama in 2006. Avila only has faced staff ace Chris Sale six times overall, quipping on Monday that even when he played every day, Avila's day off came when Sale was on the mound.

"It'll be much better trying to catch them than to hit them," said Avila, who has hit against 11 current White Sox pitchers. "They have an exciting pitching staff, through the rotation and the bullpen, guys who have had some very good years. They have been throwing the ball well for the last couple of years.

"Like I said, I can't want to get to Spring Training and get to know guys and figure out how guys tick, what they like to do: Not only trying to get guys out, but getting to hang out with guys and get to know everybody. It will be a lot of fun."

This White Sox move clearly has Avila excited for the possibilities. He's eager to get to know a new city and a new organization. With a solid '16 performance, Avila could turn his one-year, $2.5-million deal into something longer term.

Avila clearly places great value on his successful time in Detroit. Now he places greater value on beating the Tigers as often as possible.

Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.