BOSTON -- Brayan Villarreal had Wednesday to recover after throwing 1 2/3 innings of relief Tuesday night, with a 38-minute rain delay in between. Whenever he pitches, opponents will be trying to put a ball in play against him for the first time this week.
All five of Villarreal's outs against the Red Sox on Tuesday night came by strikeout. The only baserunner he allowed reached on a walk. The outing continued a solid stretch for him since returning from Triple-A Toledo on April 26.
The 25-year-old right-hander has allowed an unearned run on three hits over 7 1/3 innings in his latest stint as a Tiger. Thirteen of his 22 outs have come by strikeout, with just two walks.
It's the type of pitching that prompted manager Jim Leyland to compare Villarreal's potential to high-strikeout reliever Al Alburquerque last week. Villarreal has a ways to go to reach that, and Leyland himself said the righty teetered towards falling into old command problems at one point Tuesday. Lately, though, pitching coach Jeff Jones has kept him in control.
"He's done well," Leyland said. "He has teetered a couple times, but he's caught himself. In the past, he hasn't been able to do that. He's kind of wavered a couple times, but he has gotten over that all the time. So far, he's been very impressive. He wings it pretty good."
Avila fine after taking foul ball off his mask
BOSTON -- The Tigers, who had battled a rash of injuries over the last two weeks, had another from an unexpected player. But as it turned out, the worst wound to Alex Avila from a third-inning foul ball off his catching mask on Thursday night was a cut across his nose.
An initial exam of Avila after the Tigers pulled him showed no symptoms of a concussion. Manager Jim Leyland said he'll probably sit against Yankees lefty CC Sabathia on Friday, something he probably would've done anyway, before getting back behind the plate Saturday.
"The way the mask hit my helmet and cut me open, it made it look a little bit worse," Avila said after the Tigers' 7-3 win over the Red Sox.
As foul tips go, Avila said it wasn't any worse than what he usually gets. He endures a lot of them off his body, earning him a reputation as one of the toughest catchers in the Majors. That toughness allowed him to catch 133 games last year, making him a fixture down the stretch after his backup, Victor Martinez, suffered a knee injury.
That said, Avila was clearly rattled when Ryan Sweeney fouled off a 96-mph fastball from Max Scherzer into the top of Avila's mask, which slid off across his face and dragged his helmet down to his nose.
"I wouldn't say it was harder than any of the other ones I ever had," Avila said, "but it got me in a good spot."
Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand immediately attended to Avila as Leyland joined him out from the dugout. Blood could be seen streaming down from Avila's nose as Rand attended to him.
"When I first went out," Leyland said, "I was concerned this was not good, because he was seeing stars."
Avila said he wasn't seeing stars, just the field in front of him. But he admitted he was rattled.
"A shot to the face, you're going to be dazed no matter what," Avila said. "I got up and I felt fine. I told them I could stay in the game."
Given the concern in recent years over concussions in all sports, that wasn't going to happen. Rand suggested to Leyland that Avila should be checked out just in case. Leyland, a catcher during his playing days in the 1960s, was in total agreement.
"I'd never forgive myself if he sat back down there, keeled over and passed out," Leyland said.
Avila walked off the field on his own power, with Rand and Leyland joining him. Avila's backup, Gerald Laird, replaced him behind the plate.
Avila returned to the dugout after the exam and watched the rest of the game from the bench. At one point, pitching coach Jeff Jones walked over to him, waved his hand and asked how many fingers he was holding up.
"I said five," Avila said. "He said, 'Nope. Four and a thumb."
Coincidentally, the Tigers called up a third catcher, Omir Santos, on Wednesday. He was brought up to allow Leyland to use one of his other backstops at designated hitter without worrying about what to do if his other catcher was injured.
Brookens ejected in series finale vs. Boston
BOSTON -- For the second time in a week, first-base coach Tom Brookens was ejected from a game. This time, first-base umpire Jeff Nelson ejected him in the second inning of Thursday's 7-3 win over the Red Sox for arguing over a close play at the bag in the first inning.
The play in question happened with the second batter of the game. Brennan Boesch grounded out to short, but replays showed it was a very close call as to whether he beat Mike Aviles' throw.
Brookens immediately exchanged words with Nelson on the call, and he then continued it later in the inning. Once Brookens took the field again for the second, he apparently picked up the argument with Nelson, who promptly tossed him before the Red Sox's defense was in place.
Infield coach Rafael Belliard quickly jogged out of the Tigers' dugout to take Brookens' place in the first-base coaching box.
It came exactly a week after Brookens was ejected by first-base umpire Paul Emmel in Cleveland for arguing that Indians pitcher Justin Masterson balked with a runner on first. Replays showed Masterson never came set before going into his delivery.
Brookens said earlier this week that Emmel had warned him that he wasn't going to hear any more arguments and then promptly tossed Brookens after the next thing Brookens said. Brookens said he did not use a curse word.
Neither Brookens nor the Tigers' staff knew if umpires were operating under a new philosophy on not allowing continued arguments, but the same stance seemed in place when third-base umpire Tim Tschida ejected third-base coach Gene Lamont on Monday.
"There does seem to be a limited tolerance," Brookens said Tuesday.
The Tigers have to wonder. Manager Jim Leyland and members of his coaching staff were ejected six times on their 10-game road trip.
Leyland said after the game that he would pay Brookens' fine.
Tigers don't anticipate long DL stint for Fister
BOSTON -- The best news on the Tigers' injury front, oddly enough, is the latest addition to their disabled list. They weren't expecting to lose Doug Fister again, but the results from his MRI exam suggest he shouldn't miss as much time as his month-long absence in April.
Fister underwent an MRI at Massachusetts General Hospital, the results of which were compared to an MRI exam from his initial injury. The results, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, showed no new damage besides the strained cartilage along his ribs that initially forced him to the DL.
"It just showed that [the injury] is still resolving. It still isn't completely resolved," Rand said. "There was no new bleeding, nothing was new, and that was key."
Team doctors will further examine Fister in Detroit on Friday to determine how much he can do and how much time he might miss. However, Rand said, Fister is not back where he started on the injury.
Rand added he is "not anticipating" Fister missing another month like last time.
Jackson progressing, not ready for activation
BOSTON -- Austin Jackson still won't be ready to come off the disabled list when he's eligible to be activated on Friday, but the center fielder is making progress. The Tigers' leadoff man began taking swings off a tee Thursday back in Detroit, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said.
They're the first swings Jackson has taken since he tried to take batting practice last week in Cleveland and was shut down after a round. Jackson also did some running, though that was the extent of his baseball activities.
Jackson will be re-evaluated on Friday to get a better idea how close he is to a return. At this point, though, the Tigers don't have an estimate on it.
Jackson went on the disabled list retroactive to May 17 with an abdominal strain. Quintin Berry has played well in Jackson's absence, but he entered Thursday batting 2-for-13 in Detroit's four-game series vs. Boston with nine strikeouts.
Dirks dealing with sore Achilles tendon
BOSTON -- After placing two players on the disabled list during this three-city road trip, the last thing the Tigers wanted for their return home was another injury situation. For now, however, they're hoping Andy Dirks' sore right Achilles tendon isn't serious enough to consider that.
Dirks was out of the lineup for a second straight game Thursday, though there was hope he'd be available to pinch-hit.
"It kind of appears that the tendon's just a little irritated," head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said, "but it's not major."
Don Kelly, who had been sent home from Tuesday's game with flu-like symptoms, started in left field in Dirks' place, batting eighth.