Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ability to hit left-handed -- and catch -- makes Avila a keeper

        A kid who hits left handed — and can catch?
        That’s what I call a keeper.
        And that’s why Alex Avila isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
        Five games into his big league career, Avila is still living a dream. The 22-year-old rookie with the quick, compact swing, is batting .471 with a couple of home runs and six RBI.
        But it is something that the average fan doesn’t see that has caught Jim Leyland’s eye.
        “One thing that really good athletes can do is they’re able to slow the game down,” the Tigers’ manager explained Sunday.
        “He’s real quiet at the plate. He slows everything down when he hits. That’s pretty impressive for a young player. If you watch him hit, he’s real slow, not herky-jerky. He has a knack for identifying a ball from a strike real early. That’s a tremendous trait
        “That’s something you accomplish with concentration over the years,” Leyland continued. “Somebody, probably has dad (Tigers’ assistant GM Al Avila), has done a good job teaching him.”
        The Tigers never doubted young Avila’s ability to hit. His bat was why they picked him on the fifth round in last summer’s amateur draft. 
        But learning to catch quickly became what Avila called a “crash course.”
        Avila’s ability and rapid development behind the plate are made all the more amazing by the fact that he didn’t begin catching full-time until his final year at the University of Alabama.
        “Let’s not get him in the Hall of Fame just yet,” Leyland cautioned. “But I really like him a lot from what I’ve seen.”
        What’s not to like?


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