Aviles starting for Royals at shortstop
Rookie displaces underperforming Pena, goes 4-for-5 Saturday
PHOENIX -- For now, the Royals' shortstop job belongs to Mike Aviles.
Aviles started at short for the ninth straight time in Saturday's 12-3 romp over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Not only that, he was elevated into the No. 2 spot in the batting order and went 4-for-5 with a home run, raising his average to .361 (13-for-36).
Tony Pena, the shortstop displaced by Aviles, had a .155 average and is working to patch his hitting deficiencies.
"The inability to make adjustments at the plate. Pitch selection. Swinging out of the zone. Lack of contact ratio," Hillman said, ticking off the problems.
"Last year, the reports were that he was better at recognizing pitches and swinging at pitches in the strike zone. This year, he's not. Sometimes, it's a matter of experience; sometimes, it's a matter of anxiety or it can be a combination of factors."
After Aviles' big day, eight of his 13 hits have been for extra bases -- two homers, a triple and five doubles. He has scored 11 runs and driven in five.
Pena's forte is his fielding prowess, including great range at a vital position, but so far, Aviles is holding his own.
"Overall, I think [Aviles has] done a pretty good job," Hillman said. "His lateral range has been acceptable. He's done well."
There's no telling when, and if, Pena will get another shot.
"When do you go ahead and put a .150 hitter back in there?" Hillman said. "If he keeps working, hopefully he'll eventually get another shot, but in the meantime, Mike Aviles is doing a pretty good job, and I'll stick with Mike and keep going with him."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.