4/21/2014 8:12 P.M. ET
Putkonen seeks answers to elbow inflammation
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Luke Putkonen spent Monday having an MRI exam on his injured right elbow as the Tigers medical staff tries to figure out the reason for inflammation that has bothered him off and on for a while and became unmanageable after Friday's two-inning outing.
"He hadn't said much about it, but he had tightness in the forearm during Spring Training," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said on Monday.
The tests showed no structural damage, Putkonen said Monday night.
"It just showed inflammation," he said.
He'll undergo a program of rest and medication to try to get back to pitching shape.
The Tigers placed Putkonen on the 15-day disabled list Monday, opening a spot for slugger J.D. Martinez to join the roster and restore the bench to full strength. Detroit had gone with an extra reliever over the weekend for depth. Putkonen's move to the DL means Justin Miller, called up Friday as the extra reliever, is staying put.
Putkonen pitched just twice all season, most recently last Friday, when he gave up seven runs on five hits against the Angels. His inactivity was more about the strength of the Tigers' starting pitching than it was about Putkonen's health.
That said, Putkonen's velocity has been down this year, from an average fastball just over 95 mph the past coupleof seasons to just under 93 mph in limited work this season. His fastball Friday averaged 92.78 mph, according to brooksbaseball.net.
"I thought from not pitching, it would've gone away," Putkonen said. "But I felt it, especially on the breaking ball."
Ausmus leaning on Avila's presence behind the plate
DETROIT -- The offensive numbers for Tigers catcher Alex Avila took another dip Sunday with a three-strikeout game, giving him 21 strikeouts and just six hits and six walks in 43 plate appearances. The attempts to get his bat going continue.
Monday was a small sign of progress from him.
"For the most part, I've been having good at-bats," Avila said. "I've had some bad at-bats as well, but for the most part, I've been seeing the ball pretty decently. Sometimes they're not going to go as planned. You can't get down about it. You can't feel sorry about it. You just have to keep playing."
Though the White Sox had a left-handed starter on the mound for Monday's series opener, Avila was back in the starting lineup. John Danks is a left-handed hurler Avila has hit in the past, going 7-for-20.
Avila went 0-for-3 against Danks, but made contact all three times. He grounded into the hole against the infield shift in the second inning before lining out to almost the same spot for a double play to end the fourth.
After flying out to center against Danks in the sixth, Avila came back up in the ninth against Matt Lindstrom and delivered one of the best-struck hits he has had this season. The drive to right-center field one-hopped the fence for a ground-rule double.
"He looked much better tonight, hit a couple balls hard," manager Brad Ausmus said, "obviously, the double, but [he also] hit that line to the shifted second baseman and hit that ground ball in the hole there to the shifted second baseman. He looked much better tonight."
Avila's game-calling skills are another factor working in his favor. It's not a measureable stat, but it's a skill valued by a manager who caught 18 seasons in the big leagues.
"There's no question that the game-calling is maybe the single most important thing in the game of baseball," Ausmus said. "If sabermetricians could put a statistic on someone who was good at calling pitches, we'd see catchers going into arbitration and making millions on the way they called pitches. You just can't put a number on it.
"I have given a lot [of responsibility] to Alex. I know he does a good job calling pitches and managing the game. Since that is the most important part of baseball, that would certainly give him more leeway with that. Now, there is always that line where the balance tips one way or the other, but right now, for me, his game-calling supersedes what he's done with the bat."
Miggy continues work with early batting practice
DETROIT -- Miguel Cabrera was among the Tigers hitters taking early batting practice Monday afternoon, trying to get his swing down with more repetitions. He has made progress with it over the past week, hitting more line drives to center and right field, but has struggled to translate it into hits.
Monday's series opener against the White Sox brought better swings, but similar fortunes. He had a pair of flyouts to the deeper parts of center and right field his first two times up before grounding out up the middle.
"His first two at-bats were 800 feet worth of outs," manager Brad Ausmus said. "In a lot of ballparks, that's two home runs. He struck those balls well and really hit the ball up the middle well, it's just the second baseman was shifted over. If we're playing in a lot of parks, he's 3-for-3 with two homers right there.
"Those are the best swings I've seen the last few games from him."
Cabrera's 0-for-4 game dropped his batting average to .206 after going 1-for-11 with three walks and four strikeouts during the three-game series against the Angels. He has had worse April slumps, including an 0-for-21 stretch two seasons ago, but mitigated the impact by heating up immediately afterward.
Both Cabrera and Ausmus have said Cabrera physically is all right after coming off core muscle repair surgery last fall.
"I don't want to say 'I believe' -- I know Miggy's going to be fine," Ausmus said.
Cabrera has hit the White Sox well the past three seasons after struggling against them for the first three years of his Tigers tenure.