KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Tigers catcher Alex Avila remained sidelined by concussion-like symptoms Friday, and manager Brad Ausmus was uncertain when the veteran backstop will be able to return to the lineup.
Rookie catcher James McCann started in Avila's place as Detroit began a crucial three-game series against the Royals, who were a half-game back in the AL Central.
''`Concussion' is kind of tough to empirically define,'' Ausmus explained, ''but he's showing after-effects of a concussion. Until he goes through activities without any side-effects, we probably won't be able to use him.''
Avila took a foul ball off his mask two weeks ago in Cleveland and didn't catch the next four games. He then left Sunday's game against the Indians with some light-headedness.
Avila tried to work out the past two days, hitting in the cage, but the symptoms returned.
''He called it `disorientating,''' said Ausmus, a former catcher.
Avila is hitting just .223 with 11 homers and 47 RBIs, but his loss is costly considering the circumstances. The Tigers only have two other catchers on the roster in McCann and Bryan Holaday, though designated hitter Victor Martinez has spent most of his career as a catcher.
Ausmus elected to go with McCann, who has played in just five big league games, for the series opener in Kansas City because the night game will be followed by an early afternoon game Saturday. Holaday is expected to get the start in that game.
McCann was 0 for 5 at the plate with the Tigers, but he hit .295 with Triple-A Toledo this season. He's also fared well against left-handers, and the Royals were starting lefty Jason Vargas.
''I think he understands the enormity of this game,'' Ausmus said.
In a bit of positive news, right-hander Anibal Sanchez felt good after throwing a bullpen session during the Tigers' day off Thursday. He's expected to throw a simulated game on Sunday as he continues to recover from a strained right chest muscle.
Ausmus wouldn't say whether there is a chance Sanchez could pitch before a potential playoff game. Sanchez has been replaced by rookie Kyle Lobstein in the rotation and that spot would be due to start Sept. 27 - the penultimate game of the regular-season.
For now, Ausmus just wants to wait to see how Sanchez comes out of his simulated game.
''If that goes well,'' he said, ''we'll have a decision to make on when he comes back.''