DETROIT -- Offensively, Mike Aviles has not been a black hole for the Detroit Tigers. His defense is another story, but as a bench player, he has given the team what they've needed. He is not a power hitter and don't expect him to be a Gold Glover in the outfield, but his offensive contributions have not been as futile as previously thought.
For the first two months of the year, Aviles was of little help, offensively or otherwise. He had just six hits, one RBI, and two walks. He struck out 13 times in 19 games, 10 being starts. He had just two hits for the entire month of May, and defense was nothing more than adequate.
Yet, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus continued to put him into games. A Mendoza-line level batting line dropped well below, and questions have since built as to why Aviles is starting, let alone playing in a game.
June has been a different story for Aviles. No, not regarding his defense. The eye test dictates he's not a solid defender, and defensive metrics -- basic or advanced -- are too small in sample size to come to a definitive conclusion. Offensively, though, he's improved.
In June, Aviles has played 14 games. During that time, he's batting .295/.311/.318 with five runs scored and four RBI, to include five multi-hit games. He's struck out just five times.
Aviles started Tuesday night's game against James Paxton, a left-handed starter whom Aviles was 0-for-3 against lifetime. Against lefties, Aviles had a 71 wRC+ since 2013, and after his defensive snafu in right on Monday night, starting him in right wasn't particularly reassuring.
Yet, start he did, and Aviles was responsible for the go-ahead run in the eighth. It wasn't pretty, nor was it in the zone, and heck, he probably shouldn't have thrown his bat out attempting that hit, but in that moment, it worked. Credit it as a fluke of nature, a desperate attempt to get something done, or just luck. Without that dribbling hit, though, a run might not score, and the inning could've ended on a double play.
Regardless of Tuesday night's results, Aviles has been more helpful than a hindrance at the plate in June. A bench player's role can be erratic at best, and not everyone can handle the days and weeks spend not playing -- and then suddenly being asked to fill a sudden or crucial need.
Aviles has been a positive contribution for the Tigers this month. That might not last, but for now, it's worth noting. The defense is going to be a mystery -- especially in the outfield, given he's an infielder -- but if Ausmus is going to continue to send him out there, at least Aviles is being productive, offensively.