10/04/11 10:11 PM ET
Avila's knee sore after near collision in Game 3
By Jason Beck and Chris Vannini / MLB.com
In the end, though, he's a starting catcher. As much as he went through in the regular season, Avila wasn't going to miss Game 4 of the American League Division Series at Comerica Park.
"Minor injuries happen to everybody," Avila said before batting practice Tuesday. "Whether I was injured badly or not, I'm not really coming out of the game anyway, so it doesn't matter."
Avila said he tweaked the knee when he stepped on Robinson Cano's foot, which found its way into Avila's path after Alex Rodriguez threw wildly to first on Avila's sixth-inning sacrifice bunt during Game 3. He was hobbling around the dugout, which caused a moment of panic among Tigers fans when TBS caught the footage.
But as always, when Justin Verlander took the mound for the seventh inning, Avila was back behind the plate. And there was no question he'd be back behind the plate Tuesday night.
"Just a little twist," Avila said, "and you just deal with it. At this point in the season, I think everybody's dealing with injuries. So nothing major."
It would have to be something beyond major to get him out, even for the end of a game. Victor Martinez has not caught since spraining his left knee in early August, and the Tigers' backup catcher is Omir Santos, the former Yankees farmhand who spent almost the entire season at Triple-A Toledo.
Manager Jim Leyland said Avila tweaked an injury he's had for a while now.
"His patella is sore. That's all," Leyland said. "That's from trying to hit the ground to crash and block balls and stuff. He's fine."
Or as Leyland later put it, "It's nothing that a double, a single and two RBIs wouldn't heal up real quick."
Former closer Jones throws out first pitch
DETROIT -- Todd Jones remembers having the confidence while mired in a jam like Tigers closer Jose Valverde was on Monday to truly believe he'd get out of it. Now that Jones is a fan instead of a closer, as he was for a club-record 235 saves from 1997-2001 and 2006-08, he knows what it's like to be on the other side.
It's not a competitive rush anymore.
"I think it's more like a dry-heave situation," Jones said before Game 4 of the American League Division Series on Tuesday night. "It's so funny, when you're out there, and you feel like you have a little bit of control, you feel like you're OK. You have bases to work with. Robinson Cano is really not that hot. I can get him out.
"But when you're watching [Valverde] on TV, you feel for the guy. You just want to see him make pitches and get outs. It's a gut-wrenching part of it, being on this side of it. Because as a player, I never really realized how important it was to everybody. For us, we're just trying to go out there and get outs."
Still, when he took the field for the ceremonial first pitch, Jones couldn't resist putting himself in the Big Potato's shoes, or at least his jersey. Wearing Valverde's No. 46, Jones did a Valverde-like ritual on the mound, fired a breaking ball to Brandon Inge behind the plate, then celebrated.
It was a reminder of Jones' sense of humor, which had him wearing a wig while running around the tarp-covered basepaths one night during his playing days -- doing his impression of Magglio Ordonez's walk-off home run that won the 2006 ALCS.
When asked to compare his pitching style to Valverde's, though, Jones said there wasn't much to it.
"I think we're both right-handed," Jones said, "but I think after that, the comparisons kind of go away."
Leyland likes how Jones handles hurlers
DETROIT -- Most times, a pitching coach goes to the mound to calm down a nervous hurler in times of trouble and give him a pat on the back. What Tigers manager Jim Leyland likes about pitching coach Jeff Jones' demeanor is that Jones can provide encouragement while still delivering a kick in the pants.
"I think he's a lot less laid back than people think," Leyland said Tuesday. "I think he quietly gets on them pretty good. He has a message. I know he's gone out there several times and said, 'What the heck are you doing?'
"I'll tell you what, he's got a real nice mix as a pitching coach, because he gets along with them well, they like him, and he likes them, but he'll get on them. And that's a knack if you can do that."
Jones became the Tigers' pitching coach at midseason, replacing Rick Knapp. He had been the Tigers' bullpen coach since 2007 and became a mentor of sorts for Game 4 starter Rick Porcello.
Leyland to receive achievement award
DETROIT -- Currently dealing with his team in the American League Division Series, Tigers manager Jim Leyland will be honored with the Tommy Lasorda Managerial Achievement Award, the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation announced Tuesday.
Leyland will be given the honor at the foundation's ninth-annual "In the Spirit of the Game" event on Jan. 14, 2012. Lasorda will present the award to Leyland.
A native of Perrysburg, Ohio, Leyland has spent more than 50 years in professional baseball, between his time as a Minor League player and coach.
But the award is for more than what Leyland has done on the baseball diamond. Leyland has taken part in many charity events with the Tigers, including Dreams Come True and the Tigers' Autographed Memorabilia Donation Program. Leyland has served as a spokesman for MLB's Father's Day program, which supports the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Every year, Leyland also meets with a group of Gang Resistance Education and Training graduates. He greets members of the military as part of the Tigers' Armed Forces Game Ball Delivery Program at each home game, and he attended "Keeping Kids in the Game."
Before his current six-year stint as manager of the Tigers, Leyland was a manager in the Tigers' Minor League system and spent time managing the Major League Pirates and Marlins. This year, he guided the Tigers to their first division title since 1987.
Other managers who have been honored include Bobby Cox, Whitey Herzog and Leyland's close friend Tony La Russa.
Versatile Kelly in Game 4 lineup for Tigers
DETROIT -- Don Kelly's versatility has been his biggest strength in his second full Major League season with the Tigers.
In the regular season, Kelly played every position except shortstop and second base. Yes, he even pitched and caught on separate occasions this year. In his first postseason, Kelly's bat has been an asset as well.
He began Game 4 having gone 2-for-4 with two runs, entering Game 2 as a pinch-runner and serving as a defensive replacement in Game 3.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland rewarded Kelly with a start in right field and the No. 6 spot in the club's batting order in Game 4.
"I was thinking the way the lineup was made out tonight, that's what we thought would be a good spot for him," Leyland said. "We tried to mix a little more speed in that spot for tonight."
While Kelly's contributions may have been unnoticed by fans throughout the year, the Tigers know how important he is. Earlier in the season, Leyland nearly teared up talking how much he respected Kelly and loved having him on his team.
"In the game of baseball, he's very, very rare as far as his character, his personality, his work ethic, and what he means to this ballclub," third baseman Brandon Inge said of Kelly. "He's one of the more underrated guys on this team that people will not hear about, because he does the little things.
"He's not going to be the guy that hits 30 home runs like Miguel [Cabrera] and is always in the media. He's the guy that flies under the radar but is so important to this team. You can't put a price on it."
Santiago's big game earns him another start
DETROIT -- The double play that infielder Ramon Santiago grounded into during Monday's Game 3 has long been forgotten.
Santiago went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, and he was a key part of the Tigers' victory. Manager Jim Leyland continued to show confidence in him Tuesday, having Santiago bat second in the lineup for the second straight night.
"I was just thankful for the opportunity, to put me in there and have the confidence in me to play," Santiago said. "I just come to the ballpark ready to play every day, and I have a chance to play, so I try to do my best to help the team win."
A guy who can put the ball in play, Santiago hit .260 in the regular season, but he batted .297 in 26 games in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
From Aug. 14 through the end of the regular season, he hit .294 (32-for-109) with four home runs and 19 RBIs, always seeming to come through with the big hit.
"I just feel happy," Santiago said. "Every time I see my name on the lineup, I'm the happiest guy ever."
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.