Confident Aviles is making strides in Lake County
It’s been four years since Robbie Aviles was drafted, but his confidence is at an all-time high.
The 22-year-old suffered an elbow injury right before the 2010 draft, where early scouting reports suggested him as a possible first or second round pick. Aviles was left with a choice that ultimately resulted in surgery to repair his right elbow. The Suffern High School alumnus went under the knife and was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the seventh round.
With a repaired elbow, Aviles set out to repair his status as a prospect arm. He said his injury is in the past, but regaining confidence in his arm took some time.
“Getting comfortable with my arm again and being able to trust it was definitely the biggest challenge,” he said.
Aviles returned to the diamond with the rookie-league Arizona Indians in 2011. Since his recovery, Aviles has spent time with the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers and two seasons with the low-A Lake County Captains. Though his 2011-13 numbers weren’t stunning, his 2014 bid is resurrecting the whispers that regarded him to high expectations before the 2010 draft.
Through eight appearances this season, Aviles has crafted an 0-1 record, 1.23 ERA and 25:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He didn’t issue a single walk his first five appearances and five of the seven runs he’s allowed have been earned.
The tall right-hander tosses a low to mid-90s fastball accompanied by a change-up, curveball and slider in the works.
Aviles said comfort has been key for him this year. He’s used to the lifestyle in Lake County after spending his entire 2013 season there. Though it was the longest season of his career, Aviles said he learned some valuable lessons.
“It taught me a lot about being a good teammate, about pacing your body and it taught me what a real season is all about,” he said.
Aviles pushed through the heavy commitment to everyday baseball by finding ways to separate baseball business from his personal life. He said he learned to avoid an “eat, sleep, breathe baseball” mindset, which kept the season from becoming overbearing.
A minor hand injury cut Aviles’ 2013 season short by a few games, but four weeks in Arizona after the season ended in September set things straight. Now, he’s put his injuries in the past and seeks consistency with his fourth pitch.
Aviles said his key goal this season is to master his slider, which he also worked on in 2013. He’s also maintaining a few mechanical adjustments that he’s worked on during previous seasons, such as developing backside drive and finishing his delivery facing straight ahead rather than spinning off. So far, he feels the work he’s put into his slider has paid off.
“Last year, I could throw it but I wasn’t too comfortable with it,” he noted. “This year, I’m starting to get more comfortable with it.”
As he finds comfort in his slider, Aviles has also grown comfortable with his coaching staff. He spent last season playing under manager Scooter Tucker and pitching coach Steve Karsay. This year, he’s working with managerMark Budzinski and pitching coach Rigo Beltran, a staff that is willing to put faith in its players.
“The coaches give you freedom to act like a professional and go about your business on your own,” Aviles explained. “They put a lot of trust in us and trust us to do the daily stuff we need to do.”
In return, Aviles has confidence in his coaching staff. He said his success this season stems from translating the gospel of his coaches to his work on the mound.
“It’s just listening to all the input from different coaches and coordinators and transferring it all from bullpens and practice to the field,” he said.
The favorable results have provided Aviles with a confidence boost, something he’s developed since his draft days. Aviles recalled his first season in pro ball, where the opposition was tougher than his high school competitors. While he once feared surrendering home runs to the game’s hot-hitting young guns, he’s since established the mindset that batters can just as easily miss his pitches.
Now, Aviles is riding his confidence into his fourth year of professional ball. Though things are going well, Aviles knows he’s still got work to do and levels to reach.
“I’m a long way from the pitcher I need to be to help Cleveland one day, so everyday I’m just working toward trying to become that,” he said.
Cleveland may be a few steps away, but Aviles’ regained confidence has him feeling comfortable on the mound. As he develops his slider, he’s redeveloping his status as a Cleveland prospect.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.