BOSTON – Detroit Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said Friday it was too early to tell whether catcher Alex Avila, who was removed from Game 5 of the American League Championship Series with an injured left knee, would be able to play in Saturday’s Game 6 at Fenway Park.
Avila injured the knee in a collision with Boston catcher David Ross — who tried to run him over — in the second inning of the Red Sox’ 4-3 victory Thursday night in Detroit. Avila initially remained in the game, but the knee bothered him and Leyland lifted him for a pinch hitter in the fourth.
“Hopefully we can have him ready for the game back in Boston,” Leyland said Friday. “Whether we’re going to have that or not, I don’t really know. But it was obvious that he was hurting pretty good. He said he could stay in, but actually I made the decision: You know what? This doesn’t make sense, let’s see if we can get him ready and get him as fresh as possible for the next game.”
Complicating matters is the fact that Avila spent time on the disabled list in August with a concussion. Avila took a foul tip hard off the mask after the collision with Ross, another factor in Leyland’s decision to pull him Thursday.
Should Avila be unavailable, it’s likely backup catcher Brayan Pena would simply play in his spot. But Leyland said he has thought about using Victor Martinez, the team’s designated hitter and a former catcher, behind the plate, thus allowing Miguel Cabrera, who is badly hampered by a sore groin, to DH. Martinez, who has bad knees, appeared in only three games as a catcher in 2013, and Leyland downplayed the possibility. . . .
Red Sox Manager John Farrell said he would again play Xander Bogaerts at third base after the rookie went 1 for 3 with a walk in his first postseason start Thursday. But Farrell, too, said he would not bench shortstop Stephen Drew — who is 1 for 17 in the ALCS — because Drew has been so solid defensively.
“There’s been a lot calling for Stephen’s head, seemingly, but he’s a very good player,” Farrell said. “And in these games defense is a premium. And when a defensive play hasn’t been made and you give a team an extra out, as good as these two teams are, you’re likely going to pay for that.”
Jarrod Saltalamacchia will catch in Game 6. . . . Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, whose game-tying grand slam in Game 2 changed the course of the series, is 2 for 19 in the ALCS and is hitting just .219 this postseason.
St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig, sidelined thus far in the playoffs with an injured left foot, took a critical step in his recovery Friday afternoon, facing live batting practice for the first time and reviving hopes the Cardinals could activate him as a pinch-hitter/designated hitter for the World Series, were they to advance.
“He put together some good at-bats,” said Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny, who watched the session. “It didn’t look like he really missed much, to be honest with you. He said he felt good, so [it’s] all pointing in a positive direction.”
Craig, the Cardinals’ regular cleanup hitter, led the team with 97 RBI before hurting himself the first week of September. He has been slowly rehabbing the injury in hopes of rejoining the Cardinals’ roster at some point this postseason.
Sheinin reported from St. Louis.