Avila confident Tigers can compete in division

Avila confident Tigers can compete in division

CHICAGO -- Al Avila was not envisioning this five months ago, sitting in the dugout ahead of Opening Day and seeing a roster of familiar Tigers ready for one more run. At the start of the offseason, he thought he could be embarking on a youth movement after a busy winter of trading veterans.

As the general manager sat in the dugout Sunday, he liked the alternate route they took. And as he looked ahead to Monday's season opener against the White Sox, he liked the club.

"We knew it was a possibility," Avila said. "We felt that this was the best decision, and right now we're very happy about it because we feel we have a very good team."

Whether it's good enough to contend again is another question. On that, Avila makes no illusions about them as favorites, but thinks they can challenge.

"Cleveland obviously is the class of the American League, if not Major League Baseball," Avila said. "They're an excellent team. But the American League Central Division is still very tough. The Chicago White Sox still have a very good team. The Kansas City Royals have an excellent team. It's one of the toughest, if not the toughest division, in my mind.

"It's not going to be easy. If anybody thinks it's going to be easy, they're not thinking right. But we do feel we have a good team, a team that's going to compete. We really like our starting rotation with the young guys mixed with the veteran guys. We feel we can score some runs. Obviously we're starting the season without J.D. Martinez, but we think we have it covered for the short term, and right now everybody other than J.D. seems very healthy."

J.D. Martinez out 3-4 weeks

The looming question Avila faces is whether veterans could be dealt if they're not contending at midseason, or if they have to dig out from a rough start. Avila didn't make any promises, but while he downplayed the urgency, he hinted that a more consistent attack could help.

"Every club likes to get off to a good start. That's just the way it is. But if you don't, that doesn't mean it's the end of the world," Avila said. "We want to get off to a good start. We want to have a good middle part of the season, and we want to finish strong. That would be ideal.

"We all know there's going to be struggles throughout the season and it's how you handle that and how you make adjustments along the way. We feel the more consistent you are, day in and day out, with your lineup in particular, the better the chances you're going to be there at the end, making a playoff run."

On other topics:

• Avila said he has not talked with manager Brad Ausmus about a potential contract extension, but wouldn't rule it out. "I think it could potentially come up at some point," Avila said. "I haven't planned for it. We haven't talked about it. But I wouldn't say that it's out of the realm of possibility."

• The Tigers have not had any inquiries on Omar Infante since emailing teams Friday that he was available, Avila said. If Infante can't find an opportunity, he's expected to sign another Minor League contract with an opt-out clause and report to Triple-A Toledo.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. 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.