DETROIT -- It's been a rough few days for catcher Alex Avila, who took an elbow to the head from Prince Fielder on Sunday, suffering a mild concussion that caused recurring headaches and made him unable to chew solid food. But it appears his misery has come to an end.
The headaches have subsided and Avila was cleared to play Thursday morning by team doctors.
"I'm good to go," he said with a smile. "[I feel] much better. Everything was better across the board. I just feel better mentally. I feel more normal. Everything's good, no more headaches, nothing like that. Jaw's going to be sore probably for a few more days, but a little pain's not going to hurt me."
Manager Jim Leyland elected to keep Avila out of the starting lineup for one more day as a precaution, but said he would be available off the bench in the finale against the A's.
Avila was in an especially good mood as he joked with the media and continued his season-long trash talking to Gerald Laird, who started the past four games in Avila's place.
"I'll tell him to enjoy his last few starts," Avila said.
The 25-year-old even shared some messages he received from friends following the incident.
"I got a few phone calls and texts like, 'What are you doing running into a tree?' And stuff like that," Avila said.
Avila also said he understood the magnitude of the situation. He's seen the replay and cringed watching Fielder's thick elbow crash into his skull. And he's seen what's happened to players like Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, who suffered a concussion in 2010 and is just now getting back to his old self.
"Obviously hearing stories from guys like Morneau and talking to them over the last couple of years and seeing what he's gone through ... that's something I didn't want, especially in my position knowing that I'm going to get hit in the head a few times," Avila said.
He knows it could have been worse. He's just thankful it wasn't.
"It's something that in my position could cut my career short," Avila said. "Obviously I had to think about myself and career and quality of life after that, so I had to make sure I was right before I got back out there."
Leyland leaning toward Smyly if Scherzer's out
DETROIT -- The Tigers do not have a probable starter listed for Sunday's game against the Twins. Yet by the hour, manager Jim Leyland's comments trend more and more like rookie left-hander Drew Smyly is going to fill in for Max Scherzer.
Though Smyly pitched in relief Thursday against the Athletics, inheriting a bases-loaded jam in the ninth inning of the Tigers' 12-4 loss, Leyland all but wrote him in after the game for a fill-in start.
"I don't say he will for sure, but most likely he'll be the starter on Sunday," Leyland said. "We weren't going to pitch him much [Thursday]."
That could change if Scherzer is evaluated on Friday and reports no more soreness in the deltoid area around his shoulder, where he felt fatigue in the second inning of his start Tuesday night. Still, it doesn't sound like the Tigers are preparing for good news.
Smyly hasn't started since Aug. 25, when he made a spot start in place of then-injured Doug Fister and turned in a quality outing with six innings and one earned run. He has made four relief appearances since then, allowing three runs on three hits with six strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings.
What happens after Sunday is a big question, and not just for health reasons. Leyland slotted out his rotation weeks ago in an order that put Scherzer in line to pitch the regular-season finale and Verlander in line to open the postseason. There's no guarantee Leyland can preserve that pitching order. If Scherzer's ready to pitch early next week, the Tigers have a decision to make.
Cabrera's chin-high homer astounds Tigers
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland's seen Miguel Cabrera hit 180 home runs during his time in Detroit. The manager said Thursday morning he's never seen one quite like the seventh-inning solo shot Cabrera hit in Wednesday night's 8-2 win over the A's.
It was a 94-mph fastball about chin high. Most hitters take it for a ball, but Cabrera put a swing on it and crushed his 41st home run 384 feet into the left-field seats at Comerica Park.
"That one amazed me, to be honest with you," Leyland said. "I don't know how that one happened."
According to ESPN's Home Run Tracker, it left the bat at an elevation angle of 35.9 degrees -- defined as the angle above horizontal at which the ball left the bat -- which is the third-highest mark for Cabrera this season.
Of the top three, it had the highest angle with the most speed off the bat at 104.5 mph. And distance-wise, it was heavily affected by the weather, losing five feet to the wind blowing in, and three feet from the temperature.
After the game, his teammates didn't know the unique scientific numbers, but as they touted him for American League Most Valuable Player, they used that home run as an example of why he deserves it.
"Look at the ball he hit tonight for a home run," Justin Verlander said. "We were talking about that in here, a couple of guys. You don't see that. You execute your pitch, 94 mph up at his chin, and he gets the barrel on the ball. It's impressive to watch."
"He's definitely the MVP of the league," Gerald Laird said. "I mean, to do what he's doing and getting walked and hitting balls like he hit out tonight, it just goes to show you how unbelievable he is. I just don't even think it's a discussion."
When a ground ball skipped off the glove of Jhonny Peralta in the fifth inning on Wednesday, it ended a 75-game errorless streak for the shortstop.
Leyland said he'd like to stay away from relievers Phil Coke and Brayan Villarreal for Thursday's series finale, but was unsure if he would be able to. He also said Joaquin Benoit would not be available out of the bullpen.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.