CLEVELAND -- Third base, where Mike Aviles was stationed for the second straight night on Saturday, is an old familiar position for him. He logged 164 games there in the Minor Leagues, mostly in 2006 for Triple-A Omaha.
When he and Wilson Betemit switched positions on Friday night -- Betemit going to second base -- it was just the 13th Major League game at third for Aviles. Oddly, he didn't get a single ball hit to him.
"Maybe they were trying to hide me," he said, laughing.
Second base was more foreign to Betemit. Middle infield wasn't new because he signed as a shortstop but he'd played just 18 games at second base in his entire pro career before Friday night -- including 17 games in the Majors. The last time was in 2008 for the Yankees and the most action there was 10 games in '06 for the Braves.
"The first time was real difficult," Betemit said, "but now it feels good. For me, it's not a problem. The thing that I have to practice every day is the double play with the shortstop. Because sometimes the runner is right there and you have to be quick."
In Saturday night's 7-1 loss to the Indians, Betemit did have trouble with a relay on the pivot -- his throw pulling Kila Ka'aihue off first base to miss a double play. Betemit fielded two ground balls cleanly and got outs, but was charged with a marginal error when Asdrubal Cabrera's high hopper glanced off his glove.
Third base is more of a test than second base for Aviles' throwing arm; he had reconstructive elbow surgery last year and missed much of the 2009 season. So far, though, he's able to throw from any spot on the infield with no problem.
"It's night-and-day," he said. "I felt like I was throwing grenades across the infield in Spring Training. Now I can throw the ball with a little straightness which is what you want to happen."
In Saturday night's game, Aviles finally got one ground ball and easily threw out Jayson Nix. He also tagged out Shin-Soo Choo trying to steal third.
Yost planning to cover baserunning
CLEVELAND -- Manager Ned Yost doesn't anticipate any changes in the Royals' coaching staff as he looks toward 2011.
He will have to replace Rusty Kuntz, who left earlier this month to resume his job as a special assistant to general manager Dayton Moore. Kuntz was the first-base coach who also specialized in baserunning and outfield play.
"It's the baserunning I'm concerned about because we have to make drastic improvement in our baserunning as far as I'm concerned," Yost said.
Kuntz will continue to be an instructor in Spring Training and at Royals' home games.
Yost noted that it's possible that bench coach John Gibbons -- former Blue Jays manager -- could be a candidate elsewhere for a vacant managerial job. The other staff members are third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez; pitching coach Bob McClure; hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and bullpen coach Steve Foster.
Mike Jirschele, the Triple-A Omaha manager, has been filling in at first base since Kuntz left for the Arizona Instructional League. Kuntz rejoined the Royals' staff last May 14 after first-base coach Dave Owen was let go in the wake of manager Trey Hillman's dismissal.
Chen angling toward dozen victories
CLEVELAND -- Left-hander Bruce Chen, who leads the Royals' pitching staff in victories with 11, made a significant change this year when he dropped his arm slot from over the top to three-quarters.
"The change he made when he dropped his arm angle helped him stay more consistently down in the zone," manager Ned Yost said.
Pitching coach Bob McClure made the change during Spring Training when Chen was a reliever, figuring it would make him more effective against left-handed batters. When he was drafted into the rotation to replace sore-shouldered Gil Meche, Chen kept using the three-quarters delivery although he occasionally also comes overhanded.
The lower delivery slot enabled Chen to not only keep the ball lower in the strike zone but added to the movement.
McClure also likes the way Chen, a veteran, approaches a game and how he varies his pitches.
"To be really good, you have to not be so predictable," McClure said. "You have to be accurate and hit the glove. But, I'll give you an example. Watch [Mark] Buehrle pitch and tell me what he's going to throw. You'll never guess right. You'll never to stay on a pattern with him."
Yost made another point about Chen.
"The thing I like about Bruce is he doesn't get flustered," Yost said. "If he gives up a home run, he just says, 'Give me the ball back and I'll go back to trying to make my pitch.'"
Chen goes for his 12th victory on Sunday against the Indians.
Dick Kaegel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.