Originally written February 02, 2012 on Fox Sports Detroit:
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DETROIT -- Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila loves the word consistency. The question for Avila, who turned 25 this past week, is whether he'll be able to consistently be the player he was last season. Manager Jim Leyland announced before last season that Avila would be the everyday starting catcher and Avila did not disappoint. He hit .295 with 19 home runs and 82 RBIs, earning an All-Star berth and a Silver Slugger Award. It was quite an improvement from the 2010 season in which Avila hit just .228 with seven home runs and 31 RBIs. But Avila doesn't plan to rest on his laurels. "There's always areas you can improve," Avila said. "And I'm always trying to improve in every aspect. As far as numbers-wise and production, all that kind of stuff, at least in my mind, you can't really think about that because it's something you can't really control as far as the results. "The way you can control it is the amount of work and your work ethic and your preparation. If you do all that the right way, then the production is there. That's the way I look at it. As long as I work hard and just continue to try and improve and learn, I don't see why I can't be consistent year in and year out." As good as Avila was in the regular season in 2011, that's how bad he was in the postseason. However, it was hardly his fault. After catching 18 straight games because of Victor Martinez's knee injury in August, Avila's knees were aching by the time the Tigers reached the playoffs. Avila never complained, nor did he ask for a day off. But his production plummeted. In 11 playoff games, he hit just .073 with one home run and two RBIs. When Avila came to town for the team's recent Winter Caravan, he said he had completely recovered from the tendinitis that plagued both of his knees in October. "Right after the reason, right after we got done, I took a few weeks of not doing anything, which felt really nice," Avila said. "I spent the whole month of November rehabbing, just getting my knees back to strength and the rest of my body. I feel great now. I've been going through my offseason workouts, hitting, throwing and I feel great." The Tigers had already planned to pursue a backup for Avila even before Martinez tore his left ACL during offseason conditioning. Martinez was supposed to be the designated hitter all season. They ended up welcoming back an old friend, Gerald Laird, who spent last season with the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals. Laird only played 37 games in the regular season, batting .232 with one home run and 12 RBIs. "I was pumped," Avila said. "I like Gerald, he's a great guy and a lot of fun to be around. I can't wait to see him and talk to him again. He's going to be bragging a lot about that World Series, too. It'll be fun to have him on the team again." Laird is known as being an excellent defensive catcher who handles a pitching staff well. He's already familiar with most of the Tigers' pitchers so it won't take him long to adjust. "I think that's probably one of the reasons why they signed him because of his familiarity with the whole team and that he would just fit right in," Avila said. "He's not going to have a problem. He's a great catcher so I think it's definitely a good pick-up. That's definitely going to help us." It should definitely help keep Avila fresh for the entire season and what the team hopes is a long postseason run. Avila also got a chance to relax when he and his wife, Kristina, vacationed with Justin Verlander and his girlfriend during the offseason. "His girlfriend Emily and my wife, they're good friends, and we've gotten to know each other really well over the last two, three years," Avila said. "It was a lot of fun. He had been to St. Martin a few times, I had never been. They invited us to go this year. It was just a blast being able to just kind of get away from everything and relax." Avila said they all had such a good time that they're already talking about going back. But they hope it's not for a while. "After a World Series," Avila said.
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