DETROIT -- After signing Gerald Laird during the offseason to serve as backup catcher to Alex Avila, the plan was to limit Avila's innings in an attempt to keep him fresh. Avila has said that he's feeling good, and he's enjoying his best month of the season -- posting an August batting average of .375 going into Friday's opener with the Orioles -- so it would appear that the plan has worked. However, neither he nor manager Jim Leyland credit an innings limit.
"I think people get carried away with that stuff. I think they make way too much of it," Leyland said. "The plan was to try and watch him a little bit, but I don't know if the plan worked or not. ... I don't want to sit here and say I had some master plan that really worked out. It's more of a common sense thing, but people seem to get wrapped up in all that stuff a lot more than I do."
It's been well documented that Avila caught the second-most innings in the Major Leagues in 2011. It's also been well documented that he was a bit worn down toward the end of the season. Even so, Avila's never been on a strict innings count at any point this season.
"It wasn't like we set out [saying], 'OK, well, you're only going to catch a certain amount of innings' and things like that," Avila said. "Just ... that Gerald is going to be the backup and that was it. He was going to play as my backup, and it would be [that] I get a day or two off a week."
Rather than fewer innings, Avila's resurgence at the plate could be chalked up to the MRI that eased his mind. He dealt with soreness in his left knee throughout the first half of the season and had the test performed in July. The procedure revealed no ligament damage, he was told he risked no damage.
"It was huge. I mean, it's a big weight off my shoulder," Avila said. "Constantly thinking about how hurt I was or if I'm doing any damage that could hurt me for the rest of my career kind of thing. The doctor actually told me it looked great.
"After I had the MRI and basically started taking anti-inflammatories and going through a treatment plan just to knock out the inflammation and some of the pain, ever since then I felt pretty good."
Entering Friday's game, the 25-year-old had a .260 season average -- up 19 points from the end of July -- with seven home runs and 35 RBIs. He was moved up to fifth in the batting order against Orioles starter Tommy Hunter.
Villarreal feeling better after taking a break
DETROIT -- Right-handed reliever Brayan Villarreal, who has been dealing with inflammation in his pitching elbow, said prior to Friday's game against the Orioles that he's feeling much better after his four-day break and will be available to pitch in the series opener.
"I threw a bullpen today and I felt great," Villarreal said. "[I threw] about 15 pitches just to get ready for the game tonight."
After uncharacteristically allowing three earned runs in back-to-back games last weekend in Texas -- he hadn't allowed more than one run in an outing this season -- the 25-year-old reported arm fatigue. As a result he underwent an MRI; the procedure revealed the inflammation.
Villarreal said that it wasn't the first time he experienced the issue this season, but similar to last time, he believes the days off will help.
"I threw the last day in Minnesota, like 90 feet, then I rested yesterday and I threw again tonight," he said. "Everything is healthy, [the inflammation] is down. I had it before, like a month and a half ago, then I did the same thing: stop for three days and come back."
Villarreal hasn't appeared in a game since Aug. 12, when he yielded two runs in one-third of an inning against the Rangers. In 37 1/3 innings he's allowed 10 runs -- five this month -- and has a 2.41 ERA.
Leyland reacts to Hernandez's perfect game
DETROIT -- The Tigers had just finished a 5-1 victory over the Twins and were on the bus to the airport when they heard that Mariners ace Felix Hernandez had a perfect game going.
As soon as they got on the plane, they watched as Hernandez threw the 23rd perfect game in Major League history.
"I was nothing more than a fan," manager Jim Leyland said. "I loved it. It was exciting. I got a big rush at the end pulling for the kid. ... You become a fan. I think that's fantastic. It's kind of a neat little thing that it's the second perfect game in Seattle this year."
The White Sox Philip Humber threw a perfect game at Safeco Field in April.
Leyland said that what made the game most interesting was that it was a close contest. And although he said a manager never wants to see his team get no-hit, in some situations he would have a difficult time not rooting for an opposing pitcher.
"If you're getting beat 12-0 -- you'd probably never say it publicly -- but if you're the other manager, you'd probably say, 'You know what? I hope the guy gets it,'" Leyland said. "But if it's a 1-0 game, that's a totally different ballgame. If somebody gets on and bloops a double down the right-field line, the game's tied. And they're fighting for a playoff spot, so it becomes a little bit different.
"You never want to see your team get no-hit or a perfect game [thrown against them], but if you're behind 9-0 with two out in the ninth and the guy's got a perfect game, I can't tell you in my heart that I'd be saying, 'Oh I hope we get a hit to screw this guy up.'"
Tigers to get Sunday-night spotlight on ESPN2
DETROIT -- For the second straight year, the Tigers and White Sox will play a Sunday-night game at Comerica Park on Labor Day weekend. ESPN made the announcement on Friday, selecting the Sept. 2 matchup between the AL Central contenders for its national broadcast and shifting the game to an 8:06 p.m. ET start.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN2. It'll be the second Sunday-night game this season for the Tigers, who beat the Reds under the lights in June with a eighth-inning comeback off Aroldis Chapman.
Fans may remember last year's Tigers-White Sox matchup as the 18-2 rout that featured a five-run fourth inning and a seven-run sixth, completing a series sweep that pretty much sent the Tigers on their way to the division title. Add their win in Chicago in 2010, and the Tigers have beaten the White Sox on Sunday night in back-to-back Septembers.
Also like last year, the Tigers will have to bounce back quickly from a Sunday-night game against the White Sox to play a Labor Day matinee against the Indians. Unlike last year, though, the Tigers won't have to travel for it, with the game being played in Detroit.
Parking restricted for Saturday night's game
DETROIT -- Due to a conflict with Saturday's Kenny Chesney concert at Ford Field, Olympia Development Parking Services is holding all of the lots it controls east of Woodward Ave specifically for fans attending Saturday night's Tigers game, which is scheduled for 7:05 ET.
Those attending must show a ticket or a parking pass, or have tickets at Will Call to park in these lots. Tailgating will be prohibited, and spots will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Fans should plan accordingly, as traffic will likely be much heavier than usual. The concert begins at 4:30 p.m.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Anthony Odoardi is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.