06/07/08 12:10 AM ET
Aviles plays short in front of family
Upstate New York native gets second career start vs. Yanks
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
On May 29, Mike Aviles was called up from Triple-A Omaha and replaced regular Tony Pena at shortstop. In succeeding games, the position was filled in turn by Pena, Esteban German, Alberto Callaspo, Pena again and, for the past two games, German.
Manager Trey Hillman, in fact, had said on Wednesday that German would be at shortstop "for a few days." After going 0-for-7 in two games at Chicago, however, German was replaced on Friday night against the Yankees by Aviles.
The reason was that Hillman wants German to correct a flaw in his hitting approach. German also had one error among a couple of misplays against the White Sox.
"Obviously, we'd like to see errorless games and we haven't seen that, but he's rolling over [at bat], hitting ground balls to the left side," Hillman said. "He just needs to get back in the middle of the field."
Hillman believes that German was pressing too much, trying to take advantage of his chance at being a starter.
Meantime, Aviles got his second big league start at Yankee Stadium, where he'd come often as a young fan from his hometown of Middletown, N.Y., about an hour away.
"If he does well, then you look smart," Hillman said. "If it doesn't go well, you look like you should have waited a day and let him get acclimated. He's got a lot of family in this area. That's not the reason I'm playing him, but a lot of times, that doesn't hurt either. It depends on how he embraces the moment. Hopefully, he'll let himself go, have some fun and enjoy the moment."
Aviles said he expected between 20 and 30 family and friends from Middletown at the game.
Growing up, he wasn't necessarily a Yankee fan.
"I kind of stayed neutral, since my family was Yankees fans and Mets fans -- Mets and Yankees, back and forth -- so I just stayed in the middle and stayed out of it," Aviles said. "I just chimed in once in a while with a Mets comment or a Yankees comment. But I'd always come to my games here at Yankee Stadium because it was closer."
Sometimes, he'd have a box seat or even be in a suite, because his aunt, a stockbroker, often scored tickets from business acquaintances.
"I sat in the bleacher seats, too, and I'd go to the upper deck, just to get different angles on the game," Aviles said.
This time, he was getting the best angle of all -- right in the middle of the infield.
In his first at-bat on Thursday night, Aviles got a good angle on a pitch from Yankees right-hander Darrell Rasner and lined a double into the right-field corner, his first Major League hit.
In the fifth inning, he doubled again, this time to left field. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored his first big league run on David DeJesus' single, finishing the night 2-for-3 in front of the hometown delegation in the Royals' 2-1 win.
"It felt great," Aviles said. "What made it feel better was the win. It was almost like a cherry on top. It's great to get your first hit, but it's always better to get a win."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.