Upbeat attitude just one reason the Indians like Aviles

One thing will be certain about the Cleveland Indians shortstop position with Asdrubal Cabrera sidelined: Mike Aviles will be ready.
Aviles is always ready.
He spends all his time preparing, watching, noticing, thinking — smiling all the while. On an upbeat and close team, Aviles seems like the happiest player among them. Always smiling, always joking, always acting like he’s the luckiest guy in the world.
“You never know how long you’re gonna have this jersey on,” Aviles said Sunday before the Indians left on an extended road trip and before Cabrera strained a quad muscle in New York, “so I figure you might as well enjoy it every single day.”
Enjoy might be the understatement of the day. It sometimes seems like Aviles walks on air when he’s in the clubhouse. He’s polite, friendly, honest — but he’ll shut the door on the media with a smile as they walk in the room as fast as he’ll kid a teammate.
Upbeat hardly does him justice.
“But there’s an intensity to it,” manager Terry Francona said.
Because Aviles contributes. He was one of the first players the Indians acquired after Francona was hired, and the manager gushed about his importance at a town hall with season ticket holders. It seemed a touch odd at the time — a manager lavishing praise on a utility guy. But it quickly became apparent that Aviles is not Aaron Cunningham or Brent Lillibridge.
Aviles plays five positions — second, shortstop, third, left and right field — and he plays them all well. He started 128 games for Boston last season, where he hit .250 and had 13 home runs and 60 RBI. He then was traded to Toronto for a manager as the Red Sox wanted to hire John Farrell. Francona managed him for part of the 2011 season in Boston, and eagerly welcomed him to Cleveland in a trade for Esmil Rogers.
Francona has already told stories of looking down the bench to tell Aviles he’s going in to pinch-run or substitute in late innings, and Aviles is at his shoulder saying “I know.”
“Having guys like him are a blessing for a manager,” Francona said. “When you have a guy on the bench and you look down there to get him ready and he’s already a step ahead of you, and he’s doing it willingly, that’s a good guy to have on your team.”
Willingly is the exact word to use. Everybody wants to play, but Aviles — who’s hitting .283 with 18 RBI in 108 at-bats — accepts where he is.
“I’m a piece in the puzzle,” he said. “I’m not the main piece. And I know that. You know what, I think everybody is starting to understand we are little pieces in this big puzzle. I think the sooner you realize that the better it is.”
Aviles spoke Sunday, before Cabrera’s injury. And he spoke like the prototype Francona player — Aviles loves playing baseball, respects others, does his best, is humble and doesn’t complain. His personality adds intangibles — Francona said it’s easy to use Aviles on day games after night games because he always brings energy with the way he plays.
Aviles said he’s happy to play “when Tito needs me to” but also is grateful with the way Francona does use him. The manager picks and chooses the spots, with an eye toward the opposing pitcher and situation. It falls under his heading “put guys in the best spots to have success.” Aviles will play shortstop every day with Cabrera out, but when he was filling in all over Francona would tell him a day ahead he’d be in the lineup, and usually where.
“I got enough gloves,” Aviles said. “I’m fine.”
He said he tries to prepare the same way every day to maintain a consistent approach — another Francona foundation belief — but he also tries to pay attention so he knows when he might be put into the game. Aviles said he learned the importance of paying attention in Kansas City from Willie Bloomquist.
“In your head, you’re watching the count, seeing how the game is flowing, looking at the monitor seeing who’s warming up in the ‘pen, maybe you might pinch-hit … certain things like that,” Aviles said. “When you’re a bench guy — in order to be ready at all times so you’re not like ‘Huh? What do you mean I got to go in?’ — you kind of play along. You play along as manager in your own head.”
Which might sound like Aviles is preparing himself for a career as a coach or manager — but he’s not sure.
“I always joke around and say I don’t know if I want to be a coach or manager because I don’t want to deal with hard-headed players like myself,” Aviles said.
Absurdity oozed from each word. If Aviles is hard-headed, Tolstoy wrote kindergarten books. The guy makes Disney seem like troubled film noir.
“We have a great opportunity, a great team, and at the end of the day we’re doing something that we love to do,” he said. “We’re playing a game for a living. You know how many people would love to change places? I think about that all the time, how many kids there are out there, little kids that are in Little League saying I want to be a baseball player. And how many of them are not going to get that opportunity. Or how many who said, ‘Man, if I didn’t get hurt or didn’t go down this path I could have been there.’
“I feel like we’re very fortunate.”