ST. PETERSBURG -- Mike Aviles would surely prefer to be playing for the Indians on an everyday basis, but the veteran knows that his value extends beyond the daily lineup card. Right now, Cleveland is also leaning on Aviles as an experienced voice for rookies Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela.
That is a role that Aviles has willingly embraced.
"If you don't want to play every day, then you really shouldn't be in this line of business," Aviles said prior to Wednesday's game against the Rays. "But being a mentor to these guys, it means a lot."
When the 34-year-old Aviles was breaking into the big leagues with Kansas City seven years ago, he appreciated the way veterans like Mark Grudzielanek, John Buck and David DeJesus took him under their wing. On the field, Grudzielanek was his double-play partner up the middle. In the clubhouse and away from the ballpark, Buck and DeJesus made Aviles feel welcomed.
Aviles has tried to do the same for Lindor and Urshela, who are learning on the fly as Cleveland's everyday shortstop and third baseman, respectively.
"I always said, 'If I ever get an opportunity where I can look after somebody, I will,'" Aviles said. "The last thing you want is for a rookie to feel uncomfortable in a locker room when you want him to perform and you want him to do well. We don't want them to feel aliented and feel like, 'Oh, I'm a rookie. I have to sit here and be quiet. I can't do anything.'
"No, I want you to be you, because you is the reason why you're here. If your personality is taking a hit, or your ego is taking a hit, you might not be the player that we want you to be out there."
Indians manager Terry Francona has enjoyed watching Aviles help the youngsters, even though shortstop and third base are the veteran's primary positions. Cleveland values having Aviles' versatility on the bench -- he can also play second and all three outfield spots -- but Francona understands that every player wants to be on the field every single day.
When the Indians called up Lindor from Triple-A on June 14, Francona kept Aviles in the starting lineup at shortstop and met with the utilityman to discuss the situation.
"I let Mikey know that we're not forgetting about him," Francona said. "I said, 'I'm not going to forget about you,' and he goes, 'I know.' And I said, 'But it's also important to help [Lindor].' Sometimes you walk a fine line with veterans. I've seen some guys where, supposedly they're helping, but they're just leveling the playing field. We've all seen that.
"But Mikey, I watch him with those guys, and he knows how I feel about stuff, and he does a very good job of encouraging [them]. You've got to be a pretty special guy to pull that off, because everybody's natural instinct is to want to play, but he's a good enough person and teammate [to make it work]."