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The Alex Avila Era Now Begins

The Detroit Tigers' 8-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles quickly became the second story of the night, as the team announced several roster moves following the game. Hello and goodbye, Wilkin Ramirez. He was sent back down to Toledo, along with catcher Dusty Ryan.

Pitcher Chris Lambert takes the bullpen spot that opened up when Casey Fien was demoted earlier today. But the big surprise is who's taking over for Ryan as back-up catcher. Alex Avila, probably the top prospect in the minor league system right now, is being called up from Double-A Erie.

This season with the Seawolves, Avila batted .264/.365/.450 with 12 homers and 55 RBIs. From all accounts, his left-handed bat is major league ready, but it's his defense that needs work. (Unfortunately, I can't really find any numbers to support that.) So is playing back-up to Gerald Laird really going to help him with that? Or is this an indication that Laird is about to lose some playing time? Another theory is that Avila could see some time at DH, if Carlos Guillen is ready to play left field.

But doesn't this feel like calling up Cameron Maybin in 2007? Too soon? And probably too desperate, as well?

(demondeaconsbaseball has more thoughts on Avila in the comments of our last post.)

Lambert, meanwhile, compiled a 6-7 record and 3.55 ERA, adding 106 strikeouts and 31 walks in 126.2 innings. But in his last 10 starts, he's 4-2 with a 2.07 ERA, which is probably why he got the promotion. (And it's probably a temporary one, until the Tigers figure out what they can get out of Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson.)

When these roster moves were announced, my initial thought was that I didn't understand calling up Ramirez at all. What was the point? But if you thought he was in the Tigers' lineup tonight solely to face a left-handed phenom, then you're probably correct. I mean, isn't it completely obvious after another one-and-done big league appearance?

I'm guessing that Detroit was ready to swap Fien for Lambert, but saw an opportunity to go with a short-handed bullpen with Jarrod Washburn presumably set to pitch deep into the ballgame. And with an unfamiliar Brian Matusz pitching for the Orioles, why not bring in another right-handed bat? Unfortunately, Washburn gave up six runs and Ramirez went 0-for-3, so neither move ended up working out for the Tigers.

And where exactly does Dusty Ryan stand in the Tigers' organization? (Billfer doesn't see much of a future for him.) He was supposed to give Detroit some more punch in the back-up catcher role, right? Hitting .160/.276/.200 hardly provided that. Yet Ryan only played in 11 games since joining the team in mid-June. Did Jim Leyland just not trust his defense? Did he think he could turn Laird's bat around by keeping him in the lineup? Instead, Laird wore down and Ryan become a non-factor.

So what do you think? Is the air thick with desperation around Comerica Park? Would you have liked to see Ramirez remain with the big league club? Is calling up Avila too hasty a move, or does the excitement of getting to see the Tigers' top prospect overshadow that concern?