Verlander, Penny endorsing Avila on Twitter
Tigers players hopeful catcher gets starting nod in All-Star Game
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander has more than 15,000 Twitter followers, but he hasn't posted much since joining the social networking site earlier this season.
But now there's a cause Verlander is fighting for on Twitter -- getting Tigers catcher Alex Avila into the All-Star Game.
"Need everyone's help getting Alex Avila to the All Star Game! Go to MLB.com and place your vote #VoteAvila RT." Verlander posted on Friday.
Since then, Verlander has posted 14 tweets with the "Vote Avila" hashtag and has gotten fellow pitcher Brad Penny to use the tag in his tweets.
"They feel that I strongly deserve it, so he's going to obviously help out and try and get me in there," Avila said. "It definitely is really nice to know that they all support me."
All-Star voting on MLB.com closes at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 30 and rosters will be announced on July 3. In the latest update on Tuesday, Avila had risen to No. 2 in the standings, still trailing Yankees catcher Russell Martin by about 500,000 votes.
Leyland's influence on Gibson palpable
DETROIT -- Before Sparky Anderson taught Kirk Gibson how to be a Major League player and a professional, Gibson's first manager in pro ball was Jim Leyland.
Anderson had the most influence on Gibson, he has said, but Leyland had the earliest. Gibson, now the D-backs' manager has never forgotten that.
And when Gibson walked to home plate Friday night to exchange lineup cards, he made sure Leyland knew.
"When I shook his hand at home plate," Gibson said after Friday's 7-6 victory over the Tigers, "I said it was an honor to compete against him tonight and said, 'I love you, man.' I appreciate what he did for me when I was a little snot-nosed kid coming out of Michigan State."
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
Gibson told the story to reporters last weekend. It began with a flight to Florida after he signed with the Tigers, and then-Lakeland manager Leyland met him at the airport.
"He picked me up and he buried me," Gibson said. "He said basically that it was great that I was an All-American and everything, but it didn't mean anything to him. ... He said I would be out at 8 a.m. every morning for workouts with him personally, and that I would work out with the team from 2:30 to 3. And they weren't easy workouts."
Leyland downplayed the conversation.
"It was just like, 'Look, you're playing baseball, and you have to concentrate on baseball.' But there was a whole different story to that," Leyland said. "I knew Gibby was going back to play his senior year, so I wanted to make sure [he knew], 'Listen, you're in baseball now. It's not going to be easy for you, maybe not as easy as football. You're going to find out what this is all about. From day one, you have to start to try to make adjustments.'
"Gibby was great about it. Gibby was crude -- I don't mean crude personally, but crude as a player. He had big-time power, kind of a rough swing to start with. He never did really develop a great, great swing, but he was just so strong and so fast and such a competitor."
Leyland also downplayed his impact on Gibson, but he sounded genuinely touched by the compliment.
"My mom could've managed Kirk Gibson. He was going to get to the big leagues," Leyland said. "I worked awful hard with him, but he worked harder than I did. It was an honor for me to work with him. That's what you're supposed to do. But I like to think I worked with all the kids.
"I'm certainly not taking any credit. You just hope that somewhere along the line you did something or said something that may have been a little bit of help to him. I hope so."
Avila gets scare from numbness in left wrist
DETROIT -- Tigers catcher Alex Avila said he was "scared," and the 37,335 in attendance at Comerica Park held their breath, when Avila went to ground grasping his left wrist Friday night.
Seconds earlier, a slider from pitcher Ryan Perry bounced into Avila. The ball rolled to the backstop and the tying run scored. Avila ran over to the ball, but once the play was over, he sat on the ground clutching at his wrist.
He couldn't feel his hand.
"Right when it hit me, it went completely numb," Avila said. "I couldn't feel it when I was going to get the ball. Once I realized the play was done, I just couldn't feel my hand at all. I could see it, I was moving my fingers, but I couldn't feel them. It scared me because I thought something might have happened and I wouldn't have been able to stay in the game."
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand came out and looked at Avila. There didn't appear to be any broken bones, and X-rays after the game confirmed.
It took Avila a couple of innings to get full strength back in his hand. He had been hit there before, but never had a feeling -- or lack thereof -- like this.
"I get hit there all the time, but normally it's glancing, where it will feel like you hit your funny bone and get that tingling feeling," Avila said. "A lot of times, I'll get that, but this time, it hit me square and it just went completely numb for a little while."
It was a tough night for Avila. Not only did he get hurt, but he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Luckily, the injury to Avila was minor and the Tigers still have their starting catcher and potential All-Star.
"Once I could feel [Rand] scratching my hand and stuff like that, then I was able to squeeze his hand and I felt like I had enough there to stay in the game," Avila said.
Leyland talks about Coke's emotions on hill
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland was asked Saturday about Phil Coke's situation in the Tigers rotation, and whether there could come a point where he's a greater help in relief. He wasn't talking.
"I'm not discussing that right now," Leyland said.
He did, however, talk about Coke's emotions. He had dealt with high-emotion pitchers in the past -- Kevin Brown foremost among them. There's a fine line between emotions working for and against a pitcher.
"You have to be able to channel your emotions to where you can turn the page," Leyland said. "It's OK to be ticked off. We all get ticked off. But you have to be able to channel your emotions to where it doesn't compound your problem. I'm not saying that's his case. I don't know if it is or not. But you have to be able to turn the page.
"You get four at-bats. If you're ticked off after your first at-bat and it affects your next three, then you're not too smart. If you're ticked off after your first at-bat, it's all right, but by the time you get out to the field and put a glove on, you should be thinking about something else. I love emotion, but emotion is something that can be positive or negative."
Tigers bat Boesch second, Magglio third
DETROIT -- With Don Kelly out of the regular lineup now that Brandon Inge is back, Tigers manager Jim Leyland had a decision to make on who to bat second.
He also had two candidates to hit third, in Brennan Boesch and Magglio Ordonez. He took care of both in one move by batting Boesch second and Ordonez right behind him for Saturday's game with the D-backs.
It isn't the ideal scenario for him, but given the lineup he has, he could do worse.
Boesch batted second eight days earlier when the Tigers faced the Rockies, but that was a result of Interleague Play and no designated hitter. Leyland simply moved everyone up in the order, batting Miguel Cabrera third and Victor Martinez hitting cleanup.
"No difference," Boesch said. "Put me at one through nine, and I'm going to do the same. Same approach, until I'm told otherwise."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.