TORONTO -- The look on outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo's face was encouraging Monday morning as he readied to step up his workload in his rehab from a left ribcage strain. The sight of Tuiasosopo's swing on the field during batting practice was more encouraging.
For the first time since Tuiasosopo felt the strain on June 20, he's doing full pregame workouts, hitting regular batting practice, taking fly balls and running. As long as he feels fine, he'll continue to do that for the next couple days before the Tigers decide the next step.
"I feel good," Tuiasosopo said before Detroit's 8-3 loss to the Blue Jays. "The last couple days, hitting off the tee, I felt great."
Tuiasosopo is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday in Cleveland, but the Indians are on track to start right-hander Corey Kluber that day. That said, simply having Tuisosopo's bat on the bench could be an advantage. His replacement, Avisail Garcia, entered Monday in a 1-for-20 slump that included nine strikeouts.
For what it's worth, Triple-A Toledo returns home on Wednesday for an eight-game homestand, which could make for an easy rehab assignment and trip back to either Cleveland or Detroit.
Sanchez hit with comebacker in rehab outing
TORONTO -- While the Tigers trotted out Jose Alvarez for a third consecutive turn through their rotation, Anibal Sanchez returned to game action in a rehab appearance. Much like Alvarez's loss, Sanchez's appearance didn't go as planned.
The team was hoping Monday's appearance for Class A Lakeland would set up his return for the Tigers next weekend in Cleveland. However, he lasted just 1 2/3 innings before taking a comebacker off his left leg, according to his agent.
Sanchez stayed behind in Florida when the Tigers flew north from Tampa Bay Sunday night.
"If everything goes all right, I expect he'll pitch for us next," manager Jim Leyland said Monday morning.
Sanchez pitched in relief in a game that had been suspended in the second inning from the previous day.
Avila to be activated, will be regular catcher
TORONTO -- A week of starts at Triple-A Toledo was enough of a rehab assignment for Alex Avila, the Tigers decided. Manager Jim Leyland announced after Monday's 8-3 loss to the Blue Jays that they're activating him from the 15-day disabled list and returning him to his role as Detroit's regular catcher, starting Tuesday night against the Blue Jays.
As recently as Monday morning, it was unclear what, if anything, the Tigers might do with Avila once he becomes eligible to return from the DL. What they're not doing is waiting. Their reports on his hitting at Toledo are more encouraging now than when he began his rehab assignment a week ago.
"He's our catcher," Leyland said. "We need him to get going, and hopefully those 30-some at-bats get him going."
Avila will be activated from the DL prior to Tuesday's game and will start behind the plate to catch Doug Fister and hit against Chien-Ming Wang. Brayan Pena, who essentially became an everyday catcher in Avila's absence, will return to the second catcher role. Catching prospect Bryan Holaday was optioned back to Toledo to make room.
Avila's two-hit game on Sunday for the Mud Hens was his second in a row and third in five days. It improved his numbers to 8-for-33 on the rehab assignment (.242), including 8-for-25 in his last six games.
It's more the kind of hitting the Tigers wanted to see out of Avila when they sent him out on rehab. It wasn't simply about getting healthy, but also about hitting. The right forearm bruise that landed him on the 15-day disabled list two weeks ago cleared up within a week, giving him more time working with Mud Hens hitting coach Leon "Bull" Durham than needing treatment.
"He worked with Bull every day," Leyland said. "Sometimes you saw results in the game, sometimes you didn't, but you don't work with somebody one day and all of a sudden they turn into Ted Williams. You have to be repetitive with it, you have to stay with it and believe in it. They were seeing some results, and we were tickled with that, so we're going to get him back up here."
Pena held his own taking the bulk of the starts, batting 10-for-36 (.277) with a double and two RBIs since June 17 entering Monday. If there's any area where Avila's absence has been felt, it might be from the pitching staff, though no Tigers have cited it as making any difference in the recent downturn from Detroit's starters. Leyland doesn't believe it made a difference, but understood the impact that the comfort factor could make.
Leyland pining over ASG roster decisions
TORONTO -- The Canada Day matinee in Toronto made for a quick turnaround for the Tigers on their way from Tampa Bay. For manager Jim Leyland's purposes, it gave him all of Monday night to pore over potential All-Star roster decisions.
As the days dwindle until All-Star rosters are announced on Saturday, Leyland finds himself wearing two hats, trying to manage the Tigers through their slump that has dropped them from first place in the American League Central, while also filling his duties as AL All-Star manager, which he earned when the Tigers won the AL pennant last October.
The latter, Leyland emphasized, does not conflict with the former.
"I'll have time to work on that," Leyland said before his team's 8-3 loss to the Blue Jays.
Much of what he'll do in the next couple days is preparation for scenarios. He'll have just a couple hours, he said, from the time he knows who was voted in by fans and players and the time rosters must be finalized. Since every team must be represented, who gets voted in could impact several decisions down the rest of the roster.
With All-Star rosters being announced Saturday night on FOX, rather than the traditional Sunday announcement, Leyland also has less time to do it.
Slumping Tigers take BP on field
TORONTO -- Normally, a road series starting with a day game after a long flight would be an easy decision for a morning to hit in the cages, rather than on the field. The way the Tigers offense is going, this wasn't one of those times.
The Tigers hit on the field Monday morning while fans began packing Rogers Centre for the Blue Jays' traditional Canada Day matinee. Granted, Detroit had other reasons to hit on the field, not the least of which was to get accustomed to the surroundings and the turf. Still, they lost for the sixth time in seven games, an 8-3 decision to the Blue Jays.
Still, for a team that managed just four runs over its previous two games -- both losses at Tampa Bay -- the extra hitting couldn't hurt.
Manager Jim Leyland, perhaps understandably, sounded Monday morning like he was ready to put the series against the Rays in the past.
"I don't think it was such a bad weekend," Leyland said. "We won one and lost two. We could've won one of the other ones."
The one major change in the lineup on Monday was Omar Infante's bump to the seventh spot in the batting order, dropping Andy Dirks to eighth. Part of that was Infante's history against knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, against whom he was 13-for-28 entering the day.
• Justin Verlander said on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning show that he believes he found a mechanical issue that would explain his off-and-on struggles this season, centering on his shoulder.
"I think that led to me being too inconsistent trying to deliver the ball, especially with my fastball command," Verlander said.
• Leyland said he was encouraged by Bruce Rondon's outing on Sunday, which included better use of his slider, a day after taking the loss in extra innings on Saturday night.
"He'll be able to help us," Leyland said.