Monday, October 6, 2014

A catcher and his concussions

A dazed Alex Avila was pulled from Sunday's game
after taking a foul ball in the face mask.
Catchers, it has been noted over the years, generally age quickly. As we learn more about concussions, it seems reasonable to theorize that foul tips off the mask are no small part of that.

Alex Avila, the Detroit catcher, left Sunday's division series game after yet another foul ball off his mask. This is at least the third concussion he has suffered this season alone, and his second in less than two months. He went on the concussion disabled list last season. He has probably had other concussions that he never admitted.

The Tigers season is over with their loss Sunday, so Avila has the rest of the winter to recover. It may -- or may not -- be enough time.

Avila was a good hitting catcher a few years ago -- .295/.389/.506 with 19 homers in 2011 -- but he hasn't approached that level since.

Which is to say, he isn't Joe Mauer -- a catcher whose bat is good enough to play at another position. If Avila can't catch, he can't play in the majors. And the way his concussions are adding up, one has to wonder if he should catch.

It's his life, and his livelihood, and it's not my place to say aye or nay to him. But I expect the Detroit front office will this winter, at the least, line up some alternatives to Avila as the regular backstop.

Avila's only 27. But it looks like a very old 27.

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