In the first three games of the 2014 season, Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila has looked a lot like he has the past two seasons. Avila went 0-for-4 in yesterday’s game, and he was the only player in the Tigers’ starting lineup not to record a hit. He is now batting .125 and he has also struck out four times in eight at-bats. To his credit, however, he has also drawn four walks.
Avila is expected to help the switch-hitting Victor Martinez pick up some of the slack that the Prince Fielder trade created, as they are now the team’s only two regular players who bat from the left side of the plate. But it is not time to hit the panic button quite yet, as there is still plenty of reason to believe that Avila will put up a solid season in 2014.
For starters, Avila had a very strong Spring Training, and even during 2011, which was his finest season to date, he got off to a slow start. During the Tigers’ very first series of the 2011 season, Avila went 1-for-10 against the New York Yankees with four strikeouts. However, Avila quickly picked up the pace after that and hit three home runs with seven RBIs in the subsequent four games. Perhaps history can repeat itself.
A big part of the reason why the Avila of 2011 has not been showing up over the past two seasons is because he has constantly been taking a beating behind the plate. Avila is still only 27 years old, and it is still very possible that his best years are ahead of him if he can just manage to stay healthy.
However, even if Avila does continue to struggle, his job should still stay safe this season, as backup Bryan Holaday would hardly be an improvement, and the Tigers would be hard-pressed to find a catcher who could do a better job than Avila on the trade market. That said, the Tigers would probably then have to consider looking for another left-handed bat such as Nate Schierholtz to help out Martinez, unless the 23-year-old Tyler Collins begins tearing the cover off of the ball.