Aviles keeps head up after trying year

Aviles keeps head up after trying year

KANSAS CITY -- This certainly wasn't the summer that Mike Aviles envisioned: Recuperating from reconstructive elbow surgery and not smacking doubles or making long throws from the shortstop hole.

That was his fate, though, and the Royals' rookie sensation of 2008 is looking on the bright side for 2010.

"I haven't had any setbacks, knock on wood," Aviles said. "Right now, everything is on track. I feel good and there's no pain in my elbow. There's just a little more healing that needs to be done in there -- I can feel it -- but it's good."

Aviles, named the Royals' Player of the Year for 2008 after a .325 season, has been quietly working out at Kauffman Stadium and joining his teammates when the club is at home.

Aviles explained that Dr. Lewis Yocum took a tendon out of his right wrist and put it in his right elbow as part of the Tommy John surgery on July 8 in Los Angeles.

"Ten percent of people don't even have it, so if you have it, they take it from the same arm. If you don't have it, they take it from your leg somewhere," Aviles said. "They take the ligament out, then they put this strong tendon where the ligament was and the tendon turns into a ligament eventually."

Aviles, 28, works out every day, but he isn't scheduled to begin throwing or hitting again until December. He hopes to be ready to play by Spring Training.

"As far as I know, there's a possibility for me to be ready by Spring Training, because everything is going according to plan and progressing smoothly so far," he said. "As of right now, it's hard to tell, but if I had to guess, I'd say in Spring Training sometime I'll be out there playing."

It was during Spring Training this year that Aviles began experiencing elbow pain, but he didn't tell anyone on the Royals' staff.

"I didn't, and it absolutely was wrong," Aviles said. "I definitely didn't expect it to be as bad as it was and, had I known, the outcome might have been a little different."

"I haven't had any setbacks, knock on wood. Right now, everything is on track. I feel good and there's no pain in my elbow. There's just a little more healing that needs to be done in there -- I can feel it -- but it's good."
-- Mike Aviles

Aviles recalled that the pain was triggered primarily by hard throws from his shortstop position.

"The injury itself didn't affect my hitting," he said. "The problem was from throwing, my elbow would start aching and throbbing so much that it would bother me when I was hitting. If I didn't throw and went to hit, I was OK."

Obviously, that was not a good situation.

"Especially if you're a shortstop and have to throw the ball across the infield," he said.

The Royals noticed that something was wrong, especially after Aviles, who'd arrived late in May 2008 from Triple-A Omaha and blazed to a .325 average, batted just .183 in 36 games this year. He finally went on the disabled list last May 23, but his situation did not improve and finally surgery was the solution.

In the meantime, the Royals have acquired a new occupant for Aviles' shortstop position, Yuniesky Betancourt. Now, Aviles faces a serious challenge in 2010.

"Those are the things I can't control. I'll see what happens going into the offseason and next year. I'm not really worried about it. My main priority is to get healthy. Once I get healthy, then I'll worry about that stuff," Aviles said, adding quickly:

"I probably won't worry about it anyway. It's just my nature. Just go out and do my job and that stuff takes care of itself."

There has been speculation that Aviles might be tried at second base, where he spent some time in the Minors, with Alberto Callaspo as a possible designated hitter. All of that, of course, is months away.

There's no doubt on Aviles' part that he can come back and resume his vibrant hitting, which included 27 doubles, four triples and 10 home runs in 102 games last season.

"There's not one doubt in my mind. There never is," he said. "I've always done it my whole life. I'm not worried about that."

Aviles never figured that he'd spend this summer without a bat in his hands and recuperating from surgery instead of ranging the infield dirt.

"It's a great way to spend your sophomore year, I guess," Aviles said wryly.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.