4/30/2014 1:38 A.M. ET
Avila bothered by back spasms, available as PH
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- For the second straight game, Tigers catcher Alex Avila was not behind the plate Tuesday. This time, however, it's not the bruised shin that forced him out over the weekend in Minnesota, but the back spasms that date back to Spring Training.
Avila experienced a recurrence of the back spasms on Tuesday, and was scratched from the lineup for the series opener against the White Sox. Bryan Holaday started behind the plate in his place.
Avila was available off the bench if needed, manager Brad Ausmus said, but not available to catch. He's considered day to day.
"He's not going to play [Wednesday] regardless," Ausmus said after Tuesday's 4-3 victory. "We've got the off-day on Thursday, so I think giving him the two days will be better. As long as he's fine, he'll be back in there on Friday.
he history of Avila's back gives his day-to-day status some level of concern. He missed some time early in Spring Training with lower back issues, but returned early in the Grapefruit League schedule and caught his fair share of games. This is the first time his lower back has been a topic since then, though it's unclear whether it has flared up since.
Avila bruised his shin sliding into home plate Friday at Minnesota, eventually leaving the game. He did not start Saturday, but entered the game as a pinch-hitter.
Early breaks in schedule messing with Tigers' routine
DETROIT -- For most of the Tigers roster, the third rainout of April on Sunday was another impediment in what has been a chaotic early schedule that has kept them out of a daily routine.
"It's been kind of choppy," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I've eaten a lot more, since there's more free time for meals. But baseball-wise, it's been too much. It's good to have a few off-days early, but this has probably been a little bit too much as far as finding a rhythm."
For the bullpen, on the other hand, it was an extra day off to catch its breath after extended work for most of the past week.
"We needed the rest," Joba Chamberlain said. "We'll get that [extra] day off on Thursday, but it was nice to kind of reset after not really throwing much early and then kind of getting after it the last few weeks."
The way the Tigers have played the past few weeks, they both have a point. Neither hitters nor pitchers have had a stretch to find a daily routine, though they played 11 straight days before Sunday's rainout. Yet, tack on Sunday's rainout to scheduled off-days Monday and Thursday, and the Tigers will play just twice in a five-day stretch, including their second time in four weeks with back-to-back days off.
Add up the off time, and Detroit played just 21 games over the first 29 days of the season, easily the fewest in the Majors. By contrast, the White Sox entered Tuesday having played 27 games.
"We've been talking about it since the first road trip, really. We haven't had a rhythm," Ausmus said. "We had an off-day and a rainout the first homestand, three off-days [after that], bad weather the following 10 days. There's no continuity to the whole thing."
For many of the Tigers relievers, the work has come in bunches. After Ausmus had to find opportunities to get relievers work in the opening week and a half, Detroit's bullpen covered 15 1/3 innings over a four-day stretch through Saturday, enough that both Justin Miller and Jose Ortega were called up as fresh arms.
Both have stuck around as part of what for now is an eight-man bullpen with Anibal Sanchez on the disabled list and no fifth starter needed until next week.
"We have a better idea of our routine now, with knowing when we pitch and roles kind of figuring themselves out," Chamberlain said. "Knowing what we need to do and mentally preparing ourselves before the game, makes it a little bit easier.
"Now you can kind of reset and get a good stretch again."
Anibal's blister showing signs of healing
CHICAGO -- The blister that landed Tigers right-hander Anibal Sanchez on the 15-day disabled list no longer qualifies as gross, according to manager Brad Ausmus. It has healed past that stage.
"It's easier on the eyes," Ausmus said.
If Sanchez is able to return with the minimum 15-day stay on the DL, it'll look much better for Ausmus. At this point, all signs point to that.
"The rawness kind of seems to have gone away," Ausmus said. "It's just a matter now of building up the skin onto that finger where it can take the friction of the baseball coming off of it."
It's possible, Ausmus said, that Sanchez will throw on Wednesday.
The way the Tigers schedule plays out, even a minimum stay will require two starts from a fill-in. Detroit can roll with a four-man rotation through Monday. With Sanchez not eligible to come off the DL until a week later, the Tigers will need a fifth starter for May 6 and 11.
The best candidate to get the call, left-handed prospect Robbie Ray, delivered five shutout innings Monday for Triple-A Toledo to stretch his scoreless streak to 13 1/3 innings over his last two starts. He's 3-2 with a 1.59 ERA in five starts for the Mud Hens, allowing 27 hits over 28 1/3 innings with five walks and 21 strikeouts.
The Tigers would need to open a spot for Ray on the 40-man roster.
• Ausmus played alongside likely future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio and former National League MVP Jeff Bagwell, but he said Tuesday he has never seen a hitter like Victor Martinez, who entered Tuesday with the lowest strikeout ratio of any American League regular.
"His focus is on every single pitch," Ausmus said. "He does not give a pitch away. His focus is there every single pitch, and he's trying to get the barrel to the ball. It's amazing. He'll spoil a pitcher's pitch with the best of them."
• Tigers pitchers entered Tuesday having produced the fewest full counts of any American League team, according to Bill Chuck of gammonsdaily.com. They had just 102 full counts through their first 21 games, and allowed a mere .183 batting average in those situations.
• Tuesday was expected to be the last day of bullpen availability for left-hander Drew Smyly before he prepares for his return to the rotation. He's slated to start Saturday night at Kansas City.