We know who the Tigers’ best pitcher is. It’s Justin Verlander, of course.
We know who their best hitter is. It’s Miguel Cabrera, of course. (Or Victor Martinez, sometimes).
We know who their best defensive player is. It’s Austin Jackson, of course.
And if you ask me, I’d say Verlander is the Tigers’ MVP. But you know who just might be their MIP — Most Indispensible Player? How about Alex Avila, proving to be one of the toughest guys in baseball.
Avila was in the lineup at catcher for the 11th straight game Tuesday night, an unrelenting stretch because of Martinez’s knee injury. The Tigers have no one else to start in Avila’s place until Martinez gets a bit healthier. So the second-year catcher keeps going out there, playing more and more, getting stronger and stronger, proving his All-Star appearance this season won’t be his last.
In the opener against the Twins, he made a tremendous play blocking the plate and tagging out a barreling Ben Revere, who tried to stretch a triple into an inside-the-park home run. The Twins didn’t even need the run, and Avila surely didn’t need the collision, but he stood there anyhow, got knocked down and popped back up.
Manager Jim Leyland shakes his head in admiration over his catcher’s stamina. Avila has a hit in 11 of his past 12 games, batting .415 during that stretch. For the season, he’s hitting .294 with 13 home runs and 57 RBIs.
He’s having a remarkable year, for a lot of reasons, including this: The Tigers would be in a huge bind without him. I’d even say, as they try desperately to hang onto the division lead, Avila is having an indispensible year.