Reconstructive elbow surgery can be a career-altering situation for a player to endure. However, for right-handed pitcher Robbie Aviles, reconstructive elbow surgery turned into the beginning of his professional baseball adventure.
A high-level prospect in the 2010 draft, Aviles suffered elbow trouble toward the end of his 2010 high school baseball season, causing his stock as a prospect to drop. However, the Indians took Aviles in the seventh round of the draft, offering him not only an opportunity to play baseball, but also the opportunity for the surgery needed to repair his right elbow UCL. Despite not being able to play until the 2011 season, the Indians saw long-term potential in Aviles, choosing to help repair his damage rather than seeing it as a deterrent that would hinder his future playing abilities.
Since being drafted, Aviles has pitched in the Arizona League, Mahoning Valley, and Lake County. He went 0-2 in Arizona with a 6.52 ERA in seven games, holding opposing batters to a .333 batting average. He also went 0-2 in Mahoning Valley in 2012, posting a 5.12 ERA in 15 games. Aviles earned his first professional win during the 2013 season in Lake County on May 19, and had an all-season record of 4-5 with a 5.09 ERA.
However, during his 2013 season in Lake County, Aviles suffered a hand injury that left him on the DL for the rest of the season. Despite being unable to close out the season on the mound, Aviles said that the injury had no impact on his off-season or spring training performances.
“I was only on the DL for a month, so it didn’t have much of an impact,” Aviles said. “I went to Arizona on September 30 to make everything was alright and to workout. It didn’t have much of an impact on spring training, but I did miss instructs in the fall.”
Upon his return to Lake County this season, Aviles now has the opportunity to work with a new set of instructors in new manager Marc Budzinski and new pitching coach Rigo Beltran. Last season, Aviles worked with Scooter Tucker and Steve Karsay. Aviles said that there is not much difference between the coaching and managerial styles of the two leadership pairings.
“I enjoy both sets,” Aviles said of his instructors. “There isn’t much difference in their approaches – they both just want to see me do well and succeed and have a good season.”
Having a successful season is Aviles’ main goal for 2014. He says this is always his focus, to simply play well and to perform to the best of his abilities.
“I want to have a great season and keep my walks down,” Aviles said.
Throughout his career, Aviles has appeared as both a starter and a reliever. Traditionally, Aviles said, he has been a starter, including throughout his high school career. While playing at Suffern High School in Suffern, New York, Aviles went 9-1 his junior year with a 0.60 ERA, striking out 77 hitters in 46 innings. He also threw two consecutive no-hitters in April 2010 while in high school prior to needing elbow surgery.
Aviles started 15 of the 16 games in which he appeared for the Captains in 2013, though he obtained his first professional win when pitching out of the bullpen in May.
In the two regular season games in which he’s appeared for the Captains this season, Aviles has pitched as a reliever. He threw three innings against the Clinton Lumber Kings on April 9, fanning five batters and giving up one hit while allowing no runs to score. He then pitched four innings against the Peoria Chiefs on April 16, giving up five hits, one run, while striking out one batter. Thus far, Aviles has a 1.29 ERA on the season.
“It doesn’t matter where I pitch,” Aviles said of his role. “Obviously, I’m more comfortable as a starter because that’s where I’ve pitched for most of my career, but I’ve appeared out of the bullpen a bit, as well. It’s fine either way.”
Overall, Aviles said that he is looking forward to the upcoming season with the Captains. He is playing with a mix of returning players and newcomers to Lake County, which Aviles said is working out for the team thus far.
“It’s a great mix of guys,” Aviles said of the team. “I’m playing with a different variety of kids. It’s a good core group from last season – my first game I threw to Stock, second game I threw to Haase, which was good, I know what it’s like to throw to them, and I still have Dorssys Paulino behind me at short. The new guys are all good players, too. It’s a great group of kids. It seems that it’s going to be a great year.”