DETROIT -- Somewhere in all the gear Alex Avila keeps at his house in Miami, there's the mitt Ivan Rodriguez gave him when Avila first converted to catcher at the University of Alabama. His father, Tigers assistant general manager Al Avila, had been talking with Rodriguez about the move, and Rodriguez mailed him a mitt, unsolicited.
Physically, it became Avila's first pro mitt once he used it that summer at Class-A West Michigan. Less tangibly, it became part of the legacy Rodriguez left in Detroit.
"There won't be another catcher like him," Avila said of Rodriguez, whose retirement became official Thursday ahead a formal press conference next Monday in Texas. "He's probably as good as it's going to get as far as a catcher that can play defense back there and also hit. He's probably one of the best to play that position."
Rodriguez will announce his retirement with the Rangers, his original team, and he'll likely go into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Ranger. To many in Michigan, however, he'll be remembered as the most important player in the Tigers' turnaround from 119 losses in 2003 to the World Series three years later.
"Pudge did very well for us here," manager Jim Leyland said. "I think that was one of the real big impact signings, probably in the history of the Tigers, under the circumstances -- he and Magglio [Ordonez]. Things weren't going so well here. I think the signing of Pudge was probably one of the big signings because of the significance of the timing of it."
Miguel Cabrera was only a Tiger for the final year of Pudge's Tiger tenure, but was a teammate with Rodriguez as a 20-year-old rookie in Florida.
"He's one of the guys that told me a lot of things to help me play the game," Cabrera said. "I'm very thankful for him. He's one of the best guys to ever play the game. I always say thank you, because I played next to a Hall of Fame guy. I was a lucky guy to play with him."
Fister to proceed cautiously after setback
DETROIT -- Doug Fister doesn't believe he necessarily pushed himself too quickly when he threw off a mound Tuesday and felt more soreness in his previously-strained left rib cage muscle. However, he said they're probably going to progress carefully in his rehab to not risk a more serious setback.
At this point, Fister said, they're working to get rid of whatever soreness remains before trying again to get him throwing.
Fister took a major step forward when he threw off the bullpen mound in Kansas City on Monday. He tried to do it again Tuesday, but felt discomfort around his side.
"I felt terrific warming up and long-tossing," he said.
Fister is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list in time for the start of the next series against Seattle beginning next Tuesday. His spot in the Tigers' rotation, currently filled by Adam Wilk, comes up in the second game of that series next Wednesday. He admitted to being frustrated, but said he's trying to make the best of it.
"It's always frustrating," Fister said, "but I've just got to take it in stride."
Cabrera out of balloting logjam at first base
DETROIT -- After three years of Miguel Cabrera struggling for All-Star recognition among all the big names at first base, he's now back on the ballot at third for the first time since 2007 with the Marlins.
The Tigers' infield shift undertaken with Prince Fielder's arrival is reflected in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game ballot unveiled on Thursday. While Fielder will compete among the likes of Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Justin Morneau and now Albert Pujols at first base, Cabrera is out of that logjam. He joins Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre and Kevin Youkilis among the candidates at the hot corner.
Alex Avila is back at catcher, trying to duplicate his All-Star nod from voters last year. Ryan Raburn is the Tigers' All-Star candidate at second base, while Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch and Delmon Young are on the ballot in the outfield. Andy Dirks is the Tigers' candidate at designated hitter.
Fans will get their first chance to vote for their choices -- including Cabrera's attempt at his first-ever All-Star voting nod -- when balloting begins online at MLB.com and tigers.com on Friday. In-person balloting at Comerica Park begins with the Tigers' next homestand, which begins April 30. The All-Star Game is slated for July 10 at Kauffmann Stadium in Kansas City.
Dirks hopes to return soon
DETROIT -- Andy Dirks believes he should be back to game action soon enough. He also believes his go-ahead run Tuesday was worth the left hamstring tightness he's dealing with now, which is why he didn't slow down when he felt the injury rounding third base.
"That's the go-ahead run late in the game," he said. "You've got to gut through it and score the run."
Dirks was limited to rehab activity on Thursday, but said he hopes to get onto the field for a workout on Friday.
"It's kind of just day-to-day right now," Dirks said, "but I should be able to do things soon."
With Dirks out, Don Kelly started in left field Thursday against Rangers right-hander Yu Darvish, with Delmon Young at designated hitter.
Price returns to radio booth
DETROIT -- Jim Price joked that he has a hard time listening to games on the radio from home. After 20 years of broadcasting the games from the booth, he's too used to being here.
After missing the previous five games with illness, including the entire series at Kansas City, he was glad to be back in the radio booth alongside Dan Dickerson at Comerica Park on Thursday.
"For 20 years, whatever the assignment, I was there," said Price.
Price confirmed that he caught the same illness that has been going through the Tigers' clubhouse since the end of Spring Training. After undergoing cancer treatments this past offseason, he said his immune system is more susceptible.
The 70-year-old Price tried to work through it, but after doing his usual pregame interview with manager Jim Leyland last Saturday, he struggled to simply fill out his scorebook. He was examined later and returned home to Detroit.