Tough wall to scale
Aviles not scared by the Monster
Three weeks ago, Mike Aviles found himself playing right field for the first time since college. Last night, in the Red Sox’ 15-5 loss to the Athletics, he played left field for the first time. A couple of days ago, he played second base. Today, with the Sox trying to squeeze in two games with the threat of a hurricane looming, he’ll be at third base.
The Sox acquired the 30-year-old Swiss Army knife at the non-waiver trading deadline and he’s been moving around since. One day he’s in the infield. Another day he’s got the Green Monster staring him down from behind.
He’s adjusting on the fly, knowing the more positions he plays, the more helpful he is.
“This is the first year in my career where I’ve had to move around as much as I have,’’ Aviles said. “But it’s one of those deals where you go out in practice and you work on it there. So this way when you get in the game, you feel a little bit comfortable so you can make the plays.’’
He had four putouts last night, dealing with a tricky ballpark along with Oakland’s hot bats. In the middle innings, he got turned around on one fly ball but recovered to haul it in.
In the seventh, switch-hitter Cliff Pennington was at the plate, batting lefthanded, and Aviles was playing in.
“You’d rather him beat you over your head than in front of you,’’ Aviles said. “Because he hits a lot of line drives and I didn’t want him to hit one of those little line drives in front of me.’’
But Pennington got the ball in the air, and Aviles had to race back for it. One issue: he’s running toward a 23-foot wall.
“Next thing you know, at that angle running back, if I catch that ball, then I probably crush into the wall,’’ he said. “That wall has no give. So it’s one of those things where you get to a certain point and you realize you’re probably not going to be able to make this catch, try to play it off the wall.’’
The ball fell at the base of the Monster, and Pennington ended up with an RBI double. But at that point the Sox trailed, 9-4, unable to stop the hemorrhaging.
“It’s tough, especially playing the outfield at Fenway,’’ said outfielder Darnell McDonald. “There’s things [you can do], just trying to get as much work as you can in batting practice before the games and just staying ready. But it’s tough.
“Fenway’s not really a place where you can just throw someone out there because there’s so many things going on out there in the outfield.’’
On the whole, Aviles has been sturdy in spots where he had no major league experience. “I’m still getting used to it,’’ he said. “It’s not as easy as people think it would be, but the way I see it, we’re all professional athletes.’’
But there are benefits to shifting to the outfield. He played right field Aug. 6 against the Yankees so the Sox could get another righthanded bat in the lineup against CC Sabathia. Last night, against lefty starter Gio Gonzalez, Aviles played left field to give Carl Crawford a chance to rest. Aviles went 1 for 4.
“So I know he’s going to keep working,’’ McDonald said. “And we need his bat, so he can help us. I know he’ll be ready.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.