Victor Martinez, the only viable catching alternative to Avila, strained his right groin muscle Saturday. He was limping noticeably as he trotted to first on a second-inning single Monday, then to second on another single.
Not wanting Martinez to risk serious injury, manager Jim Leyland pulled his designated hitter for a pinch runner at that point. Casper Wells played the rest of the game at DH, going 0-for-3 with a walk in the Tigers' 8-3 win at Seattle.
Martinez is now doubtful for any action until Detroit returns home Friday to host the White Sox. The Tigers are off Thursday.
The Tigers will have to determine how badly Martinez's groin muscle is strained. The ailment does not appear serious enough to warrant losing the slugger for 15 days. Three days of inactivity might get Martinez well enough to catch in an emergency.
It isn't just a matter of calling up a catcher to fill in for a few days. Detroit could option someone such as Wells to the minors -- except the organization doesn't have any catchers at any level in the minors currently on the 40-man roster.
To bring one up, he would have to have his contract purchased -- and the most viable candidates are at Class AA or Class A, and they were just drafted last June.
Transferring Joel Zumaya to the 60-day disabled list Monday created an opening on the 40-man roster, but the three catchers at Class AAA level are journeymen.
So what happens if something happens to Avila?
The stated third catcher heading into the season was Don Kelly, a utility player who has never caught at the professional level. Last year, that role went to Ryan Raburn, now the regular left fielder.
The best theoretical option to catch would be Brandon Inge, who was converted to catching after getting drafted out of Virginia Commonwealth and who came up to the Tigers as a catcher.
However, Inge has been the club's third baseman in recent seasons, and in view of Inge's knee tendinitis and subsequent surgery two seasons ago, Leyland said there was no way he would put his third baseman behind the plate anymore.
He might want to rethink that. He might have to.
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