DETROIT -- With Chris Getz still feeling the effects of a concussion he suffered on Sept. 12, Mike Aviles has filled in at second base. And while his defense is still a work in progress, Aviles has been on a tear at the plate.
The 29-year-old had only two home runs in his first 337 at-bats, but has four in his last 35. He has hit in 11 of his last 12 games after Tuesday. During the Royals' last homestand, he hit .520 (13-for-25) with seven RBIs and seven runs scored.
Aviles said his elbow has been feeling better than ever over the past month. He had Tommy John surgery in July 2009, and rushed back to be ready for Spring Training. But through the first portion of the season, Aviles said he was still feeling pain when throwing and hitting. That's not much of a surprise, considering it takes most pitchers 9-to-12 months before they are even throwing again, while Aviles was back after only seven months.
However, the pain has subsided and Aviles has found himself in quite a groove offensively.
"All year has been an up and down battle with my elbow," Aviles said. "I've just been feeling myself out and trying to help the team as much as I can. Early in the year, I just felt like I couldn't drive the ball [like] I wanted to. And I really couldn't throw the ball as hard as I wanted to, either. Slowly but surely, I'm starting to settle in and get better, and feel better."
Knowing he's going to be in the lineup everyday for the past week has helped, too.
"Throughout the year, I've been not knowing if I'm going to play the next day or not, and that's a little frustrating at times because I feel like I can help the team on a daily basis," Aviles said. "But that's just the nature of the beast. It's unfortunate what happened with Getz, but knowing I'm going to be in the lineup every day helps mentally and it helps me as far as how I'm playing."
Manager Ned Yost said he's seen improvements from Aviles at the plate lately. But he wants to see Aviles work on the defensive aspect of his game. If he's able to make strides, Yost said Aviles may be a candidate to move to third base next season.
"He's played [third base] before," Yost said. "For me, at times and most of the time, with the exception of the last week, he struggled with balls hit hard right at him. At third base, you can't struggle with balls hit hard right at you. It just doesn't work. It's something that we've talked about and we are working on addressing it. If he can get some work and he can handle those balls, which I'm fairly confident he can, then he'd be a good candidate to play some over there next year."
Pena building relationships with staff
DETROIT -- Brayan Pena's impressive numbers at the plate have been easy to observe. The relationships he's building with the pitching staff, however, can't be measured in numbers or found on the Internet.
Pena said he's built up quite the rapport with the pitching staff since essentially becoming the everyday catcher when Jason Kendall went down in late August with a torn rotator cuff.
"It's a great experience," Pena said. "Every single one of those guys are great competitors and great teammates. The good thing about our pitching staff is that we have a young one and those guys are getting the experience, and they are going to be very good."
Pena is hitting .397 (27-for-68) with 14 RBIs in his last 18 starts -- with nine multi-hit games. His performance last week earned him American League Player of the Week accolades, as he hit .435 with nine RBIs.
The 28-year-old, who was in the Minor Leagues since he was 19, played 64 games for the Royals last season, which marked his career-high total in the big leagues. He played in a combined 71 games for the Braves over the course of four years.
While he likely won't surpass his career high in games played this season -- he's currently at 53 -- Pena said this year has been very beneficial. The catcher said he's been happy with the way he's been able to put together everything he's learned over the years.
"When you have a good work ethic and you have a good hitting coach -- and a good catching instructor, it's easier," said Pena, who will likely play winter ball to try to continue improving. "The only thing [is] I just have to keep working hard and trying to get better, and make myself better -- defensively and offensively. My main goal is to try and help my team win and get better in every aspect."
Yost wants to look at young players
DETROIT -- Two players in Tuesday's lineup for the Royals are both looking for the first home runs and RBIs of their big league careers. Rookies Jarrod Dyson and Lucas May both cracked the lineup in the second game of the three-game series at Comerica Park.
The speedy Dyson led off for the Royals and played center field, while May was behind the plate and batted ninth. Entering Tuesday, Dyson was hitting .357 (5-for-14) in seven games, and May was batting only .071 (1-for-14) in six games.
As the season winds down, manager Ned Yost said he wants to get a look at some of the younger players to see where they may fit into the picture for next season.
"I'm just getting guys in there," Yost said. "I'm giving them a chance. I've got to look at these guys. I'm going to look at Dyson. I've got to look at May. [Brayan] Pena has been doing the majority of the catching and [Gregor] Blanco has been doing the majority of center field duties. I'm giving them an opportunity to play some."
Rookie Jai Miller was also in the lineup in right field, sporting a .270 average with one homer and four RBIs in 15 games.
Royals have new Midwest League affiliate
DETROIT -- After spending nine years affiliated with the Burlington Bees, the Royals announced on Tuesday the signing of a two-year player development contract through the 2012 season with the Kane County Cougars of the Class A Midwest League.
The Cougars have played in the postseason six of the past eight years and produced more than 100 players who have reached the Major Leagues.
"In the short time we have had to interact with the Kane County management team, it is clear that the atmosphere and environment that they provide will help us develop Major League players," said Royals Director of Minor League Operations Scott Sharp in a release. "Kane County has a long history of community and fan support, and the Royals are excited for our young players to be part of that history."
The Cougars had been affiliated with the Oakland Athletics since 2003. The club has seen impressive attendance numbers in the Midwest League, drawing over 6,000 fans per game and topping the 400,000 mark for 17 straight seasons.
The club will play its home games at Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, Ill., which is 45 minutes outside of Chicago. The stadium underwent a $10.5 million renovation in 2009.
Alex DiFilippo is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.