Avila diagnosed with tendinitis in left knee
No structural damage for Tigers catcher, but workload to decrease
ARLINGTON -- The last time the Tigers were in Texas, having been eliminated by the Rangers in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series last October, Alex Avila and the Tigers told reporters he didn't need surgery on his sore knees. The offseason supposedly would allow him to recover from the damage of the late-season grind of starts he endured.
It seems ironic that with the Tigers back in town, Avila's painful left knee left both the team and the All-Star catcher concerned. Test results, however, showed he has the same bout of patellar tendinitis he dealt with last season.
"I know what I have to do as far as on the field, the adjustments that I have to make and what we have to do treatment-wise to keep me on the field," Avila said. "Now that we know for sure what it is, I think for my peace of mind, knowing that I'm not doing any more damage to my knee, it makes it much easier to make the adjustments I need to do to make sure I can stay on the field."
In other words, Avila can tolerate the pain more knowing that it isn't causing serious damage to his knees, though the tendinitis could be a long-term issue for him as he goes along in his career. He could be on the field again as soon as Tuesday.
Even so, he likely won't be on the field as much as he had been. While it's a relief for the Tigers in the sense that he won't need surgery, it's still a concern for manager Jim Leyland, who will now try to temper Avila's workload to try to keep him healthy.
"I'm sure he won't catch as much [as he had been]," Leyland said after Monday's 8-2 win over the Rangers. "Exactly what that means, I have no idea, but I doubt very much he'll catch as much as we want him to."
Avila visited Monday evening with Rangers team doctors, who looked over the results of an MRI exam Avila had Monday morning. The results confirmed Avila's suspicions that he didn't have any structural damage. However, it also confirmed that what Avila had been doing to keep his knee healthy wasn't working.
The problem dates back to at least early May, when he missed two games of a West Coast trip with knee soreness. He came back and supposedly felt fine, but Leyland began mixing in Gerald Laird for an occasional start as a precaution.
"Since Seattle, we were treating it and stuff like that and it was manageable," Avila said before Monday's results. "Some days were better than others, and I was able to continue with it. Then after [Sunday's] game it was pretty painful, and we decided to try something new here and get it checked out again."
Asked what sets it off, Avila said, "It sounds ridiculous to say it, but when I'm walking up the stairs, things like that. It's kind of like I feel good, and as I squat more and run more, it kind of gets worse and more painful.
"It's frustrating, because I was on the DL and had days off, and right when I come off, I start getting pain again, which is kind of concerning for me. I don't understand why I would be having pain in my knee when I got off the DL."
Some would say the statistics reflect something different in Avila, who spent much of last season batting around .300 before fading down the stretch after a grind of consecutive starts while Victor Martinez was unable to catch. He sprained the knee sometime after the All-Star break, yet played through it because he knew the Tigers needed him.
By comparison, Avila is batting just .234 on the season. Since coming back from that first bout of knee soreness, he's hitting .216 (16-for-74) with five doubles, one home run, 11 RBIs and 18 strikeouts.