Leyland puts Santos behind dish in opener

Leyland puts Santos behind dish in opener

Leyland puts Santos behind dish in opener
DETROIT -- Luckily for Alex Avila and the injury-riddled Tigers, the only lingering effects of a foul ball off the catcher's face mask, which drew blood and forced Avila to exit Thursday night's game, is a scar across the bridge of his nose.

Avila said he was fine after Thursday's game, but his name didn't appear in the lineup Friday against the Yankees. However, manager Jim Leyland said it had nothing to do with his health.

"I discussed it with some people, and I just thought that [Omir] Santos has a feel for [starter Casey Crosby]," Leyland said. "He's been catching him, and it gets a right-handed bat in the lineup. That's why that decision was made."

Filling in for Doug Fister, who is back on the 15-day disabled list with the same left rib cage muscle strain, Crosby made his Major League debut in the series opener vs. New York.

Santos' familiarity with the rookie left-hander, along with Avila's injury and .143 career batting average against Yankees starter CC Sabathia, made Leyland decide Santos would be the best start at catcher, with Gerald Laird at DH to add another right-handed-hitter.

Although Laird knows the tendencies of the Yankees' hitters better, the skipper didn't want to overwhelm his rookie pitcher.

"You're going to put too much on [Crosby's] plate by saying, 'This is the only place you can throw it to get him out,' and I don't want to put all that on the kid," Leyland said. "Just let him go out, throw his pitches, let Santos call the game, and see what happens. I don't think you can over-complicate it."

Avila was available to pinch-hit, if necessary. When asked when he thinks he'll return, the 25-year-old backstop said "Oh, I'm definitely going tomorrow. I can go today, but they didn't want to push it. But I'll definitely be in there tomorrow."