DETROIT -- The Tigers finalized their plans to send out catcher Alex Avila on a rehab assignment. He'll play three straight games with Triple-A Toledo starting Monday in hopes of being activated from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday.
Avila, who went on the DL a week and a half ago with a strained right hamstring, is scheduled to catch five innings for the Mud Hens on Monday and Tuesday, then play at DH on Wednesday.
The Hens are at home all three days, so assuming he feels fine after that, Avila will be able to join the Tigers for their homestand finale Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals.
The catcher's return would come just in time for a marathon stretch of games for the Tigers, who play 20 games in 20 days before the All-Star break. Gerald Laird has been getting the majority of starts behind the plate in Avila's absence, but rookie Bryan Holaday started the last two games against Rockies left-handers Jeff Francis and Christian Friedrich.
Berry makes case with five-hit game
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland isn't going to get committed to starting Quintin Berry every day. Likewise, Berry isn't going to go outside of his skill set to try to prove he should be starting all the time.
"I'm going to put the best lineup out on the field," Leyland said.
Still, the more he hits like he did Sunday, slapping singles through the infield and centering easy line drives to get on base, the more he makes his case to play.
"I'm just trying to make contact, put balls in play, bunt, stealing when I can," Berry said after a 5-0 win over the Rockies. "All those little things that I do, that's part of my game, not trying to do too much. I'm not out here trying to hit home runs or drive in runs or stuff like that."
Sunday's 5-for-5 performance not only was the first of Berry's brief Major League career, it was the first by any Tiger this season. The fact that it came in just his second start since Austin Jackson returned from the disabled list a week ago couldn't have made for much better timing.
None of Berry's five hits went for extra bases, but they played a part in two of Detroit's five runs. Two of his singles followed Jackson singles at leadoff, advancing him into scoring position with less than two outs.
Berry had been 2-for-11 since Jackson's return.
"He didn't try to do too much," Leyland said. "He had a great day, and line drives, too. I'm not talking about bloop hits. Every one of them was hit hard, the last one probably not quite as hard as the other ones. He laid the bat on the ball, and the legs are there, obviously."
Leyland indicated Andy Dirks' Achilles injury gives him the flexibility to start Berry in left field and Delmon Young at DH against right-handed pitchers. That's a luxury Leyland didn't have when the Tigers didn't have the DH spot in Cincinnati and Chicago against the Cubs.
Fister feels good following return to action
DETROIT -- Doug Fister provided a boost for the Tigers by returning from the disabled list with six scoreless innings Saturday against the Rockies. The fact that he felt fine the next morning might have been a bigger relief for manager Jim Leyland, because it means he can slot the big right-hander into his rotation for next week.
Still, Leyland said, he's going to give Fister an extra day of rest and start him Friday at Pittsburgh for the start of the club's next road trip. With no other off-day until the All-Star break, he's going to use it to not risk Fister aggravating the left side strain that sidelined him for most of the season until now.
Leyland had been leaning toward starting Fister for Thursday's homestand finale against the Cardinals. That spot will instead go to top pitching prospect Jacob Turner, whose first start with the Tigers this season will pit him against the team he followed growing up, and against a manager he knew in high school.
Leyland said before Sunday's game that he was thinking about splitting up Thursday's game among his relievers, making it a bullpen start.
"I thought about that," Leyland said. "But we talked about it, and [team president/general manager] Dave [Dombrowski] wants to give Turner a shot, and that's fine. No problem. That's good."
Had things gone to plan for Turner this spring, this might have been just another outing for him in what would've been his first full season in the big leagues. But a rough start in camp, followed by shoulder tendinitis, ruled him out of starting anywhere to open the season, let alone Detroit.
- 142 wins
- 110 wins
The 21-year-old right-hander has made 11 starts between Class A Lakeland and Triple-A Toledo, steadily pitching his way into his old form. He has three straight outings with six innings and one earned run with the Mud Hens, including a four-hit, six-strikeout performance Friday at Norfolk to outduel Jamie Moyer.
If things go to plan, it could be a one-time start for Turner, at least for now. Drew Smyly, who won the fifth spot out of camp but left last Sunday's outing with a blister on his right index finger, played catch Saturday and felt good, according to Leyland. The Tigers are hoping they can schedule Smyly to pitch on June 26, the day he's eligible to come off the disabled list. That would be the second game of the series in Texas.
Leyland gives Raburn day off for finale
DETROIT -- The Tigers' matchup with Rockies right-hander Jeremy Guthrie earned Ryan Raburn Sunday's game off after three consecutive starts.
Raburn's 4-for-11 performance with two doubles in those games earned some questions as to whether he might finally be hitting the groove the Tigers have been waiting for.
The answer from manager Jim Leyland sounded hopeful, but far from definitive.
"He's better, more relaxed," Leyland said. "I mean, he's not home free yet, but he's better. I have to just play him right."
That means not putting Raburn into spots where he could struggle. If he heats up at the plate and goes on a midseason tear, as he has the last few years, he'll be playing quite a bit, but Leyland won't be doing that just to do it.
"If he gets like he did the second half [last year], he'll be in the lineup," Leyland said. "I'm talking about just trying to get him going, I probably shouldn't have done that. I probably screwed that up."
The Tigers will face three right-handed starters in their upcoming series against the Cardinals.