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Alex Avila will avoid surgery, return to Tigers during 2015 season

A treatment plan will allow the 28-year-old catcher to avoid surgery.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT -- Saturday night it was a right arm contusion. But that's not why Alex Avila has landed on the disabled list.  The Detroit Tigers placed the backstop on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 7 for a loose body in his left knee. Considering Avila's .342 on-base percentage and history of getting beat up behind the plate, it's not a surprise that no one knew about it before now.

Avila got an MRI on Saturday and the Tigers will get a second opinion from a knee specialist on the best course of action before making any further decisions. But Avila's knee has been bothering him for several weeks and in all likelihood the 28-year-old catcher will need arthroscopic surgery to remove the loose body.

"It affects me getting out of a chair," Avila said. "It's been pretty painful for a while, for the past few weeks. Some days it's been difficult just to walk around and stuff like that, so I knew it was probably something a little more serious and basically I've been playing with it, some days I'm not sure how, but according to the doctor it wouldn't be smart, I could probably do some more damage, so we're going to take care of it."

If a surgical scope is indeed necessary, Avila will likely miss about six-to-eight weeks, which would be approaching the MLB All-Star Game. Avila believes that the injury is unrelated to the patellar tendinitis issue from 2011, and the exact timing of Avila's new knee injury is a bit puzzling as he doesn't remember injuring it at any point.

"It's hard to pinpoint a day," Avila said. "Was talking with the doctor yesterday and Kevin (Rand) trying to think if there was a time where I injured it during the season. I can't remember. Or think of a time where I felt it or did something to it. But it's been bothering me pretty bad for a few weeks. But I can't think of a time where I injured it. That's kind of the mystery about it. Obviously it's just kind of something that developed."

With Avila out for the foreseeable future, James McCann will now get the bulk of the playing time behind the dish. Ausmus was unaware of Avila's knee issue until Rand informed him that Avila needed an MRI, which was after Avila had been initially scratched from the lineup for the bruise to his right forearm. Ausmus found out the results during Friday night's game. That Avila didn't say anything until this point, though, wasn't surprising.

"No, I'm not surprised," Ausmus said. "Alex is a tough kid. I really didn't know anything about it until yesterday during the game."

Bryan Holaday, the Tigers backup catcher from the 2014 season, was called up from Triple-A Toledo Saturday morning. Holaday has performed well with the Mud Hens so far this season. Friday night he knocked the RBI single to give Toledo a 3-2 walk-off win against the Charlotte Knights. At least the travel time between Toledo and Detroit is relatively short as Holaday reported to the clubhouse this morning. And where other minor league catchers might be at a disadvantage, at least Holaday is familiar with the staff already.

"Yeah, it's kind of a seamless transition that way," Ausmus said. "I haven't gotten reports on Holaday. I know him pretty well, so it's not that I've needed to get reports. It stings a lot (the loss of Avila) I would say. He's really the starting catcher, he's a left-handed bat in a right-handed lineup, and he's got a ton of experience behind the plate."

Update on 5-13-15:

Wednesday afternoon the Tigers announced that Avila would be able to avoid surgery on his knee. The Tigers sought a third opinion for a definite result, and after an enhanced MRI was performed at the DMC Tuesday night, Dr. Kyle Anderson, who reviewed the MRI, confirmed that no surgery would be needed. A treatment program has been put in place for Avila, and the Tigers expect him to return to the team at some point during the 2015 season. There is no timetable for his return yet.