Tigers’ Avila could be headed to Hens; Francona returns to Boston today


CLEVELAND — Tigers catcher Alex Avila sat out Wednesday’s game against the Indians, and will do the same today against the Twins.

Could the former All-Star soon be out of Detroit altogether?

A Detroit columnist on Wednesday suggested Avila should soon be bound for Triple-A Toledo if he does not emerge from his season-long slump — a skid that Tigers manager Jim Leyland said has left him “soul-searching” for answers.

Asked if there were any way to help Avila rediscover his swing, Leyland said, “I don’t know. I have no idea. I wish I did.”

Avila is batting .176 (20-for-115) with a .256 on-base percentage this season for an OPS of .552 — a massive fall from his .895 OPS in 2011. Last year, he batted .242 with a .352 on-base percentage.

“I don’t want to indicate that Alex isn’t our catcher because he is our catcher,” Leyland said. “But somehow, we have to get him going. At some point, I have to do something. Sit him down for two days? Sit him down for three? Go every other day for a while? I don’t have the formula.

“I don’t want anybody to think that I haven’t been thinking about it. I ask a lot of opinions from the coaching staff. I do a lot of soul-searching at night. What’s the best way to bring this guy out of it?”

Backup catcher Brayan Pena began Wednesday batting .275 in 13 games.

BITTERSWEET RETURN: Tribe manager Terry Francona is bracing for an emotional return to Boston today.

The Indians open a four-game series at Fenway Park to face the Red Sox, the team he led to two World Series championships over eight seasons. It will be Francona’s first visit as an opposing manager.

“I'm sure I’ll have a lot of emotions,” said Francona, who was fired after the Red Sox’s second-half collapse in 2011. “The one thing I want to remind myself is that this game is tough enough to play.

"I don’t want our guys having extra baggage during that series. I need to be very cognizant of that, that whatever feelings I’m having, I’ll deal with them. The one thing that I will say is I’m proud to go back there as an Indian.”

POWERED OFF: Chris Perez has been silenced.

The outspoken and polarizing Indians closer shut down his Twitter account after a second-straight uneven appearance resulted in another barrage of fan negativity. Perez, who became a popular target after blasting fans last year for not supporting the team, allowed back-to-back homers to blow a one-run ninth-inning lead Monday against the Mariners.

Perez was not available to reporters before the past two games but issued a statement.

“The decision to deactivate my Twitter account was a personal choice I made in order to maintain greater focus on the success of the team this season and our shared goals moving forward,” he said.

Francona said he was “cool” with Perez’s decision.

“I don’t think I’ve looked at a Twitter in my life,” he said. “I don’t even know if I know how. But I like his reasoning.”

A two-time All-Star, Perez is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA and six saves this season.

EXTRA INNINGS: Miguel Cabrera’s 49 RBIs are the most by a Tigers player through 43 games since Hank Greenberg had 53 at the same juncture in 1937. ... With his win Tuesday, Max Scherzer (6-0) became the second Detroit pitcher since at least 1916 to open the season with two six-game winning streaks. Milt Wilcox was 6-0 in 1977 and 1984. Scherzer matched the start in 2011. ... Indians first baseman Nick Swisher will rejoin the Indians on Friday in Boston, Francona said. Swisher has been on the paternity list since he and his wife welcomed their first child Tuesday.