Mike Aviles Ready to Compete for Shortstop Job, Calls Nick Punto Player You ‘Kind of Hate’ to Play Against

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Mike Aviles Ready to Compete for Shortstop Job, Calls Nick Punto Player You 'Kind of Hate' to Play AgainstFORT MYERS, Fla. –– Mike Aviles had been training for the transition since October. A natural infielder, Aviles was practicing in the outfield, traveling to Puerto Rico –– at the Red Sox’ request –– to prepare for a position change.

And then, he received word of the trade. Once the Red Sox shipped shortstop Marco Scutaro to the Rockies in mid-January, Aviles immediately changed gears back to the infield, but with mixed feelings.

“I was actually excited about the shortstop opportunity, but a little bummed about the outfield thing,” Aviles said. “That’s just how it is, right?”

Fortunately for Aviles, he was prepared for an emergency. Although he spent his offseason primarily shagging fly balls, he still allocated time to field grounders in an attempt to remain well-rounded.

“I just took ground balls and fly balls whenever I could, so if something happens and I get put in the fire, I’ll be alright and won’t be like ‘Uh oh, what do I do now?'” Aviles said. “I like to be prepared.”

He hasn’t been crowned the starter just yet. The 30-year-old, who has played over 100 games in a season just twice in his career, will be competing against veteran Nick Punto and possibly Jose Iglesias for the job.

Having played in the American League Central with the Royals, Aviles is well aware of the headache that Punto –– who played for the Twins –– will provide in the forthcoming competition.

“He’s one of the guys that I’ve played against the last couple years that you kind of hate,” Aviles said. “He does so many little things and if you’re playing defense against him, it’s so frustrating because you can play him up the middle and he’ll hit one toward the hole. If you play him toward the hole, he’ll hit one up the middle.

“He just does so many things good, that he’s that guy, you can’t get him out. He gives you a long, long at-bat and wears pitchers down and next thing you know starts rallies. I’ve had a lot of respect for him playing against the Twins.”

Aviles and Punto will still be competing, but this spring it will be in the same uniform.

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