Laird aiming to make most of timeshare
Veteran catcher not worried about splitting time with Avila
BOSTON -- Gerald Laird could have lamented about lost playing time last week.
Instead, while Laird and rookie Alex Avila share time behind the plate, Laird is trying to produce when it's his day to start, earn as much playing time as he can and take advantage of the rest he gets. How much of a difference the rest makes for Laird down the stretch remains to be seen, but Sunday was a very good day for him.
Laird drove in a run with a double, scored the go-ahead run after another double and caught nine innings in 90-degree heat. It was an exhausting day with results.
"I'm tickled for Laird," manager Jim Leyland said Monday afternoon. "It just looked good for Gerald to really contribute yesterday, I thought. He got the job done to get a run in. Then he hit the double to lead off that eighth inning. That was big. That's what makes good stuff. To get those guys, each doing their job, and both contributing, that's wonderful."
Laird isn't going to hide his desire for as much playing time as he can get. He's on track to top 100 games caught for just the second time in his career after spending much of last year sharing time with the Texas Rangers' many catching prospects. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden essentially made Laird expendable for Texas, which dealt him to Detroit last December for a couple of pitching prospects.
If Avila holds his own down the stretch, who knows how that will affect Laird's status in Detroit. He isn't trying to think that far ahead.
"They explained the situation," Laird said. "They want to give me some days off, but I explained my side. I want to be in there. I want to play. It is definitely going to be nice to get a few more days off."
It's a different situation than last year, when Ivan Rodriguez lost playing time to Brandon Inge as the season went on until the Tigers traded Pudge at the Trade Deadline.
This year, the Tigers' turnover at backup catcher had at least some impact on Laird's playing time, certainly early on. Detroit signed Matt Treanor over the winter as a veteran backup, but hip surgery ended his season after just a few early games. Dane Sardinha's offensive struggles overshadowed his ability to work with the Tigers pitching staff, and Dusty Ryan showed he still has some work to do.
To be fair, Avila has played just a couple of games so far, but his tools and his makeup suggest he can more than hold his own in the job. He'll be back behind the plate Tuesday and Wednesday to catch Rick Porcello and Armando Galarraga.
That's the difference in this situation compared with other catching platoons. The two catchers for now are being split up according to starting pitchers, with Laird handling Detroit's three top veteran hurlers. The fact that Porcello and Galarraga pitch back-to-back gives Laird consecutive days off and lets Avila play back-to-back games.
Leyland believes the rest will result in more production out of Laird when he does play.
"I'm hoping we get the combination going," Leyland said. "Avila's done a good job so far, and hopefully he can continue to throw up some hits and Gerald can throw up some hits."
That's how Laird is trying to view it, as a combination more than a split.
"I definitely have caught a lot this year," he said. "I understand that. I've caught a lot of games. A day or two off a week would be nice to give me a break. But definitely, I expect to be in there, though. I haven't been in this type of situation, to be able to play for a playoff spot, so I definitely want to be back there for the guys and do the best I can to try to get the staff going."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.