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Aviles hopes Classic brings enthusiasm to homeland

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FT. MYERS, Fla -- Mike Aviles, the Red Sox's starting shortstop for most of last season, was back at the JetBlue Park Tuesday -- not as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays, the team to whom the Red Sox traded him last October for the right to sign manager John Farrell, or with his new employers, the Cleveland Indians, who acquired him 13 days later -- but rather with Team Puerto Rico, which was making final preparations for the World Baseball Classic.

"I think we're going to be pretty good," predicted Aviles, who started at shortstop for Puerto Rico and moved to third base in the fifth inning. "We've got a good lineup and we've got some good young pitchers."

Like many members of Team Puerto Rico, Aviles hopes a strong showing in the Classic will rekindle enthusiasm for baseball in that country.

"Things are changing in Puerto Rico," said Aviles. "I feel like we can do something to help that out if we play well."

Last October, Aviles became the first Major League player to be swapped for a manager since the Rays traded Randy Winn to the Seattle Mariners in 2002 in order to hire Lou Piniella as their skipper.

Ozzie Guillen was "traded" by the Chicago White Sox to the Miami Marlins last year, but that was for a Minor League prospect.

"It was definitely weird, being traded for a manager," Aviles admitted, "but you can also take it as an honor. I appreciated it."

"I called him the same day [as of the trade]," Farrell said before the Red Sox's 5-4 win. "He and I had a brief conversation. We talked about the experience in Toronto and what he could expect. It was a unique conversation."

"He told me there was a good group of guys over in Toronto and I would enjoy it," Aviles recalled. "Of course, I never got the chance to find out, but it was kind of cool that he called me. He didn't have to do that."

With the Indians, Aviles said he expects to be "pretty much like a super-utility guy."

The 31-year-old batted .250 with 13 home runs, 28 doubles, 60 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 136 games last year. Aviles has spent the most of his five-year big league career at shortstop, but he can also play second base, third base and the outfield.

"I can help the team win, which is all I want," Aviles said.

When Team Puerto Rico arrived at JetBlue Park on Tuesday night, Aviles headed straight for the Red Sox's clubhouse to "mess" with his former teammates.

"I wanted to see all my buddies," Aviles explained. "Security stopped me, but I said, 'I'm not worried about it. I'm not afraid of the Red Sox.' "

Aviles later chatted with Dustin Pedroia and others in the Boston dugout before heading across the field.

"I was excited to see all the guys, Aviles said, "but it was definitely strange going over to the other dugout."

Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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