As a shortstop for Kansas City in 2008, Aviles was tapped to hit leadoff for the Royals. Due to those duties, he said he would over-think the situation and constantly sputtered to 0-2 counts.
Based on Aviles’ 3-for-5 performance Saturday, when he batted in the leadoff spot for Jacoby Ellsbury, those days are long gone. He credits that success to maintaining the aggressive style he has when slugging in the nine-hole.
"I find that in the past — when I changed my approach — I find myself 0-2 a lot quicker, and I try to stay aggressive in the zone," Aviles said. “In the top part of the lineup, I try to be aggressive in the zone and just try to bear down and see a pitch I know I can drive and really take advantage of it.”
By unloading a solo shot and three hits, Aviles proved he is capable of filling in for Ellsbury atop the order.Prior to this season with Boston, however, his career numbers in the No. 1 slot validated that claim.
During the last five years, Aviles has belted five homers and 23 RBIs while setting the plate for his teammates. He's only produced better offensively from the No. 2 hole, hammering 14 homers and 60 RBIs.
Since the beginning of his career, Aviles has overcome the odds. Despite inking his first professional contract with a mere $1,000 signing bonus, the shortstop managed to ascend to the major leagues.
Heading into spring training, Aviles was in competition with defensive whiz Jose Iglesias for the starting shortstop job. In a span of Grapefruit League games, he dazzled and earned the nod with flying colors.
"Mikey’s good, man," catcher Jarrod Saltalmacchia said. "When we got him last year in the trade, everyone underestimated him a little bit, but he’s a good player. He goes hard every day. He can put good wood on the ball."
At times, even Aviles’ outs were daunting. With the bases loaded in the fourth inning, the 31-year-old battled through a lengthy at-bat against pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and blasted a deep fly out to right field.
It's a testament to Bobby Valentine's trust in Aviles, which first surfaced during a March 27 spring training game. Before the outing, the Red Sox skipper admitted he was attempting to "warm up" to the notion to sliding Aviles above the order.
That shred of seasoning certainly paid off for both Aviles and Valentine in the showdown.
"He was determined to do well and did a good job, no doubt," Valentine said of Aviles.
The trial likely won't be long-term. When Carl Crawford returns from his wrist injury, he could be primed to dabble in the leadoff spot, where he flourished during parts of his nine years in Tampa Bay.
In the meantime, Aviles is worthy of handling the duties.