Good news for the Tigers, as catcher Alex Avila is back in the lineup for tonight’s series finale against the Red Sox.
Avila was diagnosed with a “mild concussion” after he was hit in the head by David Ortiz’s backswing during Friday’s game. While it was a concern given his history, he has passed the proper concussion protocol. The Tigers held him out of yesterday’s lineup as a precaution, but he’s ready to go tonight.
Avila, 27, is batting .217/.341/.370 with four home runs and 13 RBI over 47 games this season. The offense hasn’t been there, but he has thrown out 42 percent (21 out of 50) of attempted basestealers. Only Yadier Molina has been better among MLB catchers.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.