It’s believed that Tigers catcher Alex Avila suffered as many as three concussions last season, but he said back in October that he hasn’t contemplated the possibility of retirement. However, he is making a change in hopes of avoiding another concussion.
According to Jason Beck of MLB.com, Avila said over the weekend that he’s switching to a hockey-style catcher’s mask.
“Eventually I’ll feel comfortable with it,” Avila said at TigerFest on Saturday. “I will be wearing it full time.”
A prototype is already in, sent to clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel earlier this month. Avila tried it on Thursday, and he expects to have other types to try out in Spring Training.
“It seems like it’s going to help a great deal,” Avila said. “It’ll take a week or so to get used to, but I think the transition will be pretty easy.”
Opinions are mixed on whether the style of mask makes actually makes a significant difference, as catchers with hockey-style masks have also suffered concussions, but Avila believes he’ll suffer fewer direct blows from foul tips and will also be able to have more padding. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus has also talked about Avila setting up lower behind the plate, but it’s unclear if he’ll do so.
The Tigers brought Avila back for 2015 by exercising his $5.4 million option earlier this winter, but rookie James McCann is expected to take on a bigger role this season.