|How Mike Aviles has prepared himself to be this season’s Dave Roberts||09.08.11 at 8:46 pm ET|
TORONTO – Mike Aviles, like most everybody else in baseball, has seen the image of Dave Roberts save the Red Sox’ season with his stolen base in the 2004 American League Championship Series.
Now, as the Sox start eyeing October, it is Aviles who would seem to be the best candidate on the Red Sox to execute such a dash when it counts the most, a notion that isn’t lost on the 30-year-old.
“You think about it,” he said with a grin.
Such a scenario isn’t yet on most Red Sox’ fans’ radar, especially after watching Aviles get thrown out by a healthy margin to end Wednesday night’s 11-10 loss to the Blue Jays. But, judging by what the infielder has accomplished over the past two seasons, that would seem to be an aberration.
Even with the caught stealing Wednesday, Aviles has the eighth-best stolen percentage in the majors since after the 2010 All-Star break, having been successful in 26 of 30 attempts. And it’s not by accident.
“I always felt I had enough speed to steal bases. But it was one of those deals where I didn’t feel like I would ever get a good jump,” said Aviles, who is 14-for-17 in stolen base attempts this season. “I didn’t know what I was looking for. I was basically trying to out-run the ball and was thrown out a lot in the minor leagues (52-for-82).”
Aviles turned to then-Royals first base coach Rusty Kuntz — the man who helped Jason Bay become one of the game’s most efficient baserunners — to help find a part of the infielder’s game he hadn’t yet uncovered.
“My first year in the big leagues I was just running to run. But then last year I asked Rusty, ‘What are the chances you could help me out?’ We started talking a lot about the baserunning and focusing a lot on it,” Aviles said. “An then this year (Royals coach Doug) Sisson reiterated everything and helped me even more. I really started to understand what to look for, when to take chances and when not to.”
Even in Wednesday night’s failed attempt, Aviles never broke stride in terms of executing his new approach. He had watched video of the pitcher, Frank Francisco, knew his tendencies and history. “I know exactly what I did. I know exactly what I was looking for,” he explained. “I know exactly where it went wrong for me, personally.
“Now I look at (video of pitchers’ moves) because I want to make sure if I get put in a situation, I’m prepared. Like (Wednesday), I was prepared, it just didn’t work out.”
According to Aviles, the setback isn’t about to deter his intentions of officially morphing from a middle-of-the-order college hitter, who stole “at most 10 bases,” to a legitimate baserunning threat.
“I actually enjoy it because it was a part of my game I always knew I could do, I just never understood how to do it,” he said. “It’s like I’m learning something new to take with me.”
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