06/10/08 8:13 PM ET
Shortstop Aviles aims for long stay in KC
Impressive series in New York leads to fifth straight start
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
Aviles was at shortstop for the Royals against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night, his fifth straight game in the starting lineup. He made quite an impression in four games against the Yankees, going 5-for-14 (.357) while whacking a triple and three doubles.
"It was fun. Got to play in Yankee Stadium, got my first Major League hit in front of my family," Aviles said. "Best of all we got two wins out of there and we played a pretty good series as a team."
Manager Trey Hillman certainly noticed.
"He embraced it in New York and he did a good job with it," he said.
With shortstop Tony Pena Jr. struggling at the plate, Aviles and his .338 average earned a promotion from Triple-A Omaha. He made his debut on May 29 against Minnesota, looked at three strikes in his first at-bat, and went 0-for-3.
Aviles did not appear in the next six games.
"The first day he didn't swing the bat, he didn't swing at strikes," Hillman said. "We gave him a little time to settle in and we gave him about a week's worth of workout days, gave him a chance to get back in on the road trip in New York and he did a good job."
Against the Yankees on Friday night, Aviles batted eighth, cracked two doubles and scored the first run in the Royals' 2-1 victory. For the second game, Hillman bumped him up to the No. 2 slot and he drilled an RBI triple and even got an intentional walk in a wild, 12-11 loss. Back in the eight hole, he went hitless in Sunday's 6-3 loss, then had a single and a double in Monday's 3-2 win.
Coming from nearby Middletown, N.Y., Aviles saw many games at Yankee Stadium as a youngster so he wasn't surprised by anything in that tough venue.
"With a lineup like the Yankees, it's never going to be an easy game. Because with one swing of the bat, they can hit a homer," Aviles said. "It's one of those deals where you basically go out there and grind it out and you can't lose focus for nine innings or however many innings we play. Because their lineup is that potent."
He did fine defensively in what was a typically exhausting series at Yankee Stadium.
"It wears on you and you've have to be mentally tough to battle through it and keep going through the whole game and not worry about the sun or the heat or anything," he said. "You just have to worry about what's going on in the field."
In three of the games, Pena replaced Aviles at shortstop defensively in the late innings. Aviles moved to third base to finish one game.
Aviles is stockier than the lean Pena and doesn't fit the shortstop prototype.
"The body type plays out slower than it actually is -- he's got more fast twitch in there than you expect to see," Hillman said.
Aviles didn't capture a lot of attention until last season when he was named Omaha's Player of the Year. He was in Spring Training this year and batted .419 but still began a third season with Omaha.
"I think he's a guy that you've got to give a little more time to. You might just grade his tools and say, 'Well, we're not real sure what we've got,' " Hillman said. "But then you put him in there and let him go and you might have something special before you know it."
Aviles certainly hasn't won the starting job after four games, but now he's getting a shot.
"We'll keep going with it as long as he continues to perform," Hillman said.
For his part, Aviles was still happy about his return to New York.
"I had a blast," he said.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.