Back Where He Belongs

During the six weeks that Mike Aviles was in Omaha, something was missing.


Up until last week, if the Royals had wanted to rest Chris Getz, their only option at second was Wilson Betemit. If Alcides Escobar had gotten hurt, their only option at short would have been… uh…

The Royals recalled Aviles last week, filling a gaping hole in their bench that didn’t need to be there. Luckily, all major fiascos were avoided.

But just days after Aviles was called up, Escobar missed a game and a half. What would KC have done if Aviles hadn’t been available? Perhaps Billy Butler could have turned a couple of double plays in Escobar’s absence.

Aviles has been awful at the plate this year, and he’s never that great with the glove. But the Royals need him, no matter how poorly he plays.

Aviles was hitting just .213 when he was sent down to make room for Mike Moustakas (never mind how poorly HE’S hit since the call-up), and needed to find his groove against minor-league pitching. He probably wasn’t too happy about the move, but at least he accepted it for what it was.

“What am I supposed to do? Complain and get upset that I’m getting sent down?” Aviles said in June. “Nobody wants to get sent down but, honestly, like I said, sometimes you have to take a step back to take a step forward.”

To his credit, he didn’t pout. At least not while at the plate. He hit .307 with an impressive nine homers in just 35 games. By comparison, Moustakas had only 10 homers in 55 games.

Aviles has been nothing but frustrating ever since his breakout rookie season in 2008. Expectations shot sky high, and injuries and slumps seem to be all he’s experienced since.

But Aviles is still an important guy to this franchise. He’s experienced, athletic, and capable of playing second, short and third. When the team chose to go it without him, they left themselves dangerously thin on the infield.

The plan all along was probably to dump Betemit and recall Aviles in July. Management probably just hoped some games at AAA would jump-start Aviles’ bat. It hasn’t happened yet, but his versatility is needed in KC nonetheless.

Aviles comes up for arbitration after this season, and his numbers won’t warrant a huge raise. After that he’ll become eligible for free agency. The next year and a half for Aviles will be an audition that both the Royals and others will watch with interest.

Christian Colon, no juggernaut himself, is seen by some as a potential utility backup of the future. Certainly the Royals would like to get some value from the fourth pick in the 2010 draft. But if Colon doesn’t get it going soon, Aviles may just become a part of the Royals’ plan long term.

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