Alex Avila has been behind the plate for every Tigers playoff game despite injuring his knee stepping on Robinson Cano’s foot in Game 3 of the ALDS, but his limp has becoming increasingly obvious of late and his production at the plate has been non-existent.
Avila hit .295 with 19 homers and an .895 OPS during the regular season, but is just 2-for-33 (.061) with 14 strikeouts in nine playoff games and manager Jim Leyland demoted him to the No. 8 spot in the lineup for today’s must-win Game 5.
Avila has downplayed the severity of the injury, but Leyland admitted to Jason Beck of MLB.com that “Alex is banged up pretty good” and there’s been plenty of speculation that he’s playing through something significant because Victor Martinez is unable to catch due to his own knee problems and Leyland certainly doesn’t want Omir Santos in the lineup.
Free agent right-hander Chris Tillman is narrowing his pool of potential suitors, per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports. Returning to the Orioles is one option, of course, but Heyman also mentions another two undisclosed teams who are still in the running. An earlier report from Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggests that as many as four teams may be in the mix; either way, a final decision is expected by Monday.
Tillman, 29, has spent the entirety of his major league career in Baltimore. After posting career-high numbers in 2016, his progress was derailed during an injury-plagued 2017 campaign, during which he missed nearly six weeks on the disabled list with recurring right shoulder inflammation. He finished the season with a bloated 7.84 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 4.9 SO/9 over 93 innings.
While the mystery teams have yet to reveal themselves, the Blue Jays, Twins and Tigers have all expressed interest in the veteran right-hander this offseason. Both the Blue Jays and Twins have made big moves to bolster their rotations over the last few days, with the additions of Jaime Garcia and Jake Odorizzi, respectively. That doesn’t mean that Tillman is out of reach, however — if his price is right, he could provide some much-needed depth for pitching staffs that finished 15th and 22nd in the league last year.