DETROIT -- Alex Avila doesn't have to sit still watching Tigers games anymore. On Thursday, he was back behind the plate at Comerica Park, and the Tigers were one step closer to health.
The Tigers activated their All-Star catcher from the 15-day disabled list Thursday morning after three Minor League games in which he was rehabbing from a right hamstring strain. He was in the starting lineup for the series finale against the Cardinals, catching Tigers top pitching prospect Jacob Turner.
Avila caught parts of two games with Triple-A Toledo and served as the designated hitter Wednesday night. He said he knew going in that he was healthy, but that the rehab assignment provided proof.
By Wednesday night, the question wasn't when Avila would be activated, but how the Tigers would make room. They had to wait on Gerald Laird's health after he left Wednesday's game with left hamstring cramps, but he was fine Thursday morning.
Thus, backup catcher Bryan Holaday was the guy to go, optioned to Toledo. The 24-year-old played four games in his first big league stint, going 3-for-10 with a double while throwing out one out of three would-be basestealers.
"I like him a lot," manager Jim Leyland said. "He can catch and throw here right now. He blocks the ball well, has got good energy, sees the ball well, good thrower. I like that. If he doesn't hit, he's probably a backup. If he hits, he's probably a regular somewhere."
At Toledo, he'll be a platoon catcher. While the Mud Hens are getting Holaday back, fellow Tigers catching prospect Rob Brantly will not return to Double-A Erie. They'll share catching duties, an adjustment in plans in the wake of Omir Santos' departure from the organization.
Kelly day to day with knee bruise after catch
DETROIT -- Don Kelly wasn't sure what he hit when he went crashing into the fence that separates foul territory from the seats down the right-field line.
Whatever it was, he hit it hard, and he banged up his knee.
"It was a direct shot," said Kelly, who eventually left Thursday's 2-1, 10-inning win over the Cardinals with a left knee contusion. "It hit on the outside on like a post, I think, and then I have two gashes in it from where I hit the wire part [of the fencing]."
Kelly caught the fifth-inning fly ball in foul territory in right field. It allowed Rafael Furcal to score, tying the game with what ended up being the Cardinals' lone run of the afternoon, but it also retired Matt Holliday and allowed the Tigers to intentionally walk Carlos Beltran and set up Allen Craig for the final out of the inning to limit the damage.
Kelly played the next couple innings before giving way to Ryan Raburn in right in the eighth inning. He's listed as day to day.
"I was trying to go. It just kept getting tighter and tighter," Kelly said. "And then I tried to make a throw to second base on [Daniel] Descalso [who doubled in the seventh], and I just couldn't get over my front side to throw. It was better for somebody else to be out there."
Kelly is hopeful that ice and treatment will allow him to be available for this weekend's series in Pittsburgh, his hometown. He'll be part of the pregame ceremonies Sunday, when the Pirates honor his alma mater, Point Park University, for its berth in the NAIA World Series this spring.
Santiago cries no foul on at-bat vs. Westbrook
DETROIT -- The way Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook worked his way through the Tigers' lineup Wednesday night, which saw Detroit fall, 3-1, the out he probably shouldn't have had got overlooked. But replays showed Ramon Santiago should've been put on base with a hit-by-pitch leading off the fifth inning.
Santiago squared around to bunt on an 0-1 pitch, but replays showed he pulled the bat back as the pitch came in. The ball hit Santiago on his right leg. Home-plate umpire Brian Runge ruled it a foul ball, resulting in an 0-2 count.
Santiago grounded out to first on the 1-2 pitch. Detroit's next batter, Gerald Laird, reached base on a one-out walk, but Westbrook retired Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry from there.
"I was shocked," Santiago said. "[If] he called me swinging or something, maybe I could take that better, but no, not a foul ball. That's not even close. My bat's over here. The ball hit me in the leg. Come on."
Tigers' 2009 Draft pick Wood retires
DETROIT -- Austin Wood, the lefty reliever made famous after throwing 169 pitches for the University of Texas during an NCAA tournament game in 2009, has retired from professional baseball, sources confirmed Thursday morning.
His decision comes three years after he achieved notoriety in college for his 12 1/3 innings of one-hit ball in the longest game in NCAA history, a 25-inning marathon that Texas won over Boston College in 7 hours, 3 minutes. The Tigers drafted Wood in the fifth round of that year's First-Year Player Draft a few weeks later.
Wood missed virtually the entire 2010 season with shoulder surgery but came back to post a 5-5 record and 3.16 ERA in 50 appearances for Double-A Erie, striking out 61 batters over 62 2/3 innings. He had similar success at Erie this year, but struggled in a few different stints at Triple-A Toledo.
Wood was not on the Tigers' 40-man roster.
Ryan Raburn officially reached five seasons of Major League service time on Wednesday. According to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he has the right to decline a Minor League option, even though the Tigers still have an option available to use on him. If the Tigers tried to option Raburn and he declined it, he would remain on the Major League roster.