DETROIT -- The Tigers' first encounter of the season with a left-handed starting pitcher Sunday meant the first start of the year for Matt Tuiasosopo after a pinch-hit appearance Thursday at Minnesota. It also meant the first test for how well his bat, which pummeled fastballs for most of the spring, can hold up in limited play.
It's a bigger challenge than it sounds like.
"I did that job for 8 1/2 years in the big leagues. It's a tough job," Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon said. "The best advice I can give him is when you get a pitch to hit, don't miss it."
On Sunday, he did not. With two line-drive singles, Tuiasosopo accounted for half the Tigers' hit total off CC Sabathia over his seven shutout innings, with a two-out walk in between.
"I just wanted to be aggressive," Tuiasosopo said. "I faced him before, so I just kind of went off how he has attacked me in the past, and then just watched the game film, and I was able to get a couple hits."
The key for a reserve player to hit, manager Jim Leyland said, is to have a quick swing. It's easier to step off the bench and adjust to pitches if the swing allows as much reaction time as possible.
Leyland didn't see that in Tuiasosopo right away. He saw more of it as Spring Training wore on.
"Early in Spring Training, I saw a longer swing," Leyland said. "As the spring went on, I saw it shorten up. Now, the key is, can you keep that when you're not a full-time player?"
It wasn't so much of a conscious adjustment, McClendon said, as it was a natural progression as the at-bats accumulated.
With guys who hit for power, McClendon says, it's a balancing act.
"What Tuiasosopo has to learn," McClendon said, "is to hit for power with a short stroke."
Tuiasosopo said he has tried to get extra swings in the batting cage this week with left-handed batting-practice tosser Ed Hodge. He also has been watching video of the left-handed pitchers on the Twins and Yankees to get an idea of what to expect.
"Just make sure I'm doing all the work I need to be doing to prepare myself," Tuiasosopo said. "As soon as I cross the lines, it's time to just trust it and go out and have some fun."
Tigers try to get rid of Alburquerque balk talk
DETROIT -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi is balking at Al Alburquerque's move out of the stretch with runners on base.
That was the source of his back-and-forth exchange from the dugout with home-plate umpire Jerry Layne during the Yankees' sixth-inning rally on Saturday. Girardi didn't win the argument with Layne, but he made his case with reporters after the game.
It's the way Alburquerque mixes his footwork that Girardi questions.
"I think Alburquerque balks every time," Girardi said. "One time his foot goes up twice. One time it goes up once. If a guy's trying to steal a base and he goes up twice one time and goes up once one time, if you're going to squeeze, you don't know when to go as the runner. I think it's a balk."
Clearly, Layne doesn't agree. The fact that Alburquerque has been called for two balks over parts of two seasons in the big leagues suggests other umpires haven't taken issue with it, either. For some, the difference could be chalked up to a pitcher varying his moves to keep baserunners guessing.
Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones also disagrees with Girardi. All the same, he talked with Alburquerque about it Sunday morning and had him outside for a throwing session to work on it and get a little more consistency.
"Personally, I don't think what he does is a balk," Jones said, "but I don't want to get into a situation where another umpire calls it. … We're going to try to eliminate any doubt."
Girardi has seen Alburquerque called for a balk. It happened during Game 4 of the 2011 American League Division Series. That came with the bases loaded. Alburquerque's other balk came last Sept. 29 against the Twins with a runner on first.
Girardi's argument Saturday came while the Yankees had the bases loaded ahead of Lyle Overbay's two-run single.
Avila's wife gives birth Sunday morning
DETROIT -- Alex and Kristina Avila's daughter arrived in the wee hours of Sunday morning, around 3:30 a.m. ET. By game time Sunday afternoon, 9 1/2 hours later, Alex Avila was at the ballpark and getting into uniform to sit on the bench against the Yankees.
Avila wasn't in the lineup, but he wanted to be back.
"I knew they weren't going to bring somebody up [from the Minor Leagues] for one day," Avila said. "I didn't want to leave skip short-handed."
The catcher's services were not needed. Considering he had next to no sleep, that's probably a good thing.
The couple welcomed Avery Noelle Avila to the world Sunday morning at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield, Mich., weighing six pounds, 15 ounces. There were no complications, but with labor induced, the process was longer than if Kristina was simply going to the hospital during contractions.
Alex Avila reported to the hospital shortly after the final out Saturday evening.
"It took a little bit longer than she would like, than we both would like," Avila said, "but we were both so anxious."
Both mother and daughter are doing fine, the catcher said. With an off-day Monday, the entire family is hoping for some rest.
Originally, the due date was next Wednesday, the day before the Tigers embark on a three-city West Coast trip. However, the couple agreed that inducing labor might be the only way to guarantee the catcher would be around for the birth.
• Austin Jackson failed to reach base leading off the first inning for the Tigers on Sunday for the first time all season, flying out to center field. Jackson had reached base in each of Detroit's first five games, including Saturday on a Jayson Nix error.
• Sunday's 39,829 tickets sold brought the total for the three-game series to 127,333. It's the Tigers' largest attendance for a home-opening series since 1961, when 135,768 flocked to Tiger Stadium to watch Detroit take on Cleveland.