Avila making most of Major League time
Catcher didn't expect to play in bigs in '09 but is swinging well
OAKLAND -- Alex Avila is just playing now. Some of the excitement has worn off. His friends and family aren't calling every day to congratulate him. These days, the fact of the matter is he's a Major League catcher.
That doesn't mean he expected to be. Not this year, at least.
"It was a big surprise," said Avila, who was in the lineup batting seventh in Sunday's rubber match against the A's. "I thought I was going to be in Double-A for the rest of the year. It was surprising, but obviously I was thrilled."
Avila knows why he's here, though.
The Tigers opened the season with Matt Treanor serving as their backup catcher. Treanor played four games before he was placed on the disabled list on April 27 with a season-ending right hip injury.
Dane Sardinha was recalled from Triple-A Toledo to take Treanor's place. He was designated for assignment after 12 games, then outrighted to Toledo. Then it was Dusty Ryan's turn, but he was sent back to Triple-A on August 4 after 11 games.
That's when Avila got the call to try his luck as Detroit's No. 2 backstop.
"I guess that's the reason they called me up," Avila said of the Tigers' catching carousel. "They want to see what you can do and how you can play at this level. ... Any time you're in the lineup, you just try to do your job. Then, hopefully, you'll stick up here."
Avila has been doing his job, both with the bat and behind the plate. The 22-year-old entered Sunday batting .370 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 10 games.
"He's had a nice little initiation period with the bat," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's done a pretty good job calling the game and he's done a pretty decent job receiving. ... He'll do fine. He has a chance to settle in and be a good big league player."
Avila has a big league pedigree. He's the son of Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila, and his grandfather, Ralph, is a retired Dodgers vice president.
"Ever since I was young," Alex Avila said, "all we did was baseball."
Young Alex, who started swinging the bat at the ripe old age of two, learned to play the game at the Dodgers' development complex in the Dominican Republic under Ralph's watch.
"[My grandfather] passed it on to my dad, and he passed it on to me," he said. "I started playing as soon as I could swing the bat."
Adam Loberstein is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.