Detroit’s backstop is started out with a different look this season. Alex Avila is back behind the plate, but he is making some changes to his approach of the game. Avila is now sporting a new goalie style hockey mask instead of his usual face mask and helmet. He is also changing up his catching stance to a more unorthodox approach. Avila is squatting with his left knee on the ground and his right knee stretched out a little more.
“We’re hoping that by having him set up a little lower,” said manager Brad Ausmus, “that might decrease the likelihood of foul tips hitting him more directly in the head as before.”
As we all know, Avila has suffered from at least three documented concussions since joining the Tigers. Getting a little lower in the catching position should help him to avoid some hits to the head. The change in catchers masks should also help as it doesn’t sit directly on his face like the old style mask did, but sits off more and is able to absorb the contact from a foul ball better.
Avila, is critical to the Tigers success and not only as a catcher, but as a hitter as well. Last season he was in the Top 40 for On Base Percentage in the league and had a higher percentage than Ian Kinsler, Torii Hunter, Rajai Davis, and Nick Castellanos. Hopefully these changes will help keep Avila healthy through out this up coming season.