akeland, Fla. — Nick Castellanos, holding out a cell phone recorder, was standing in back of a group of reporters talking to new Tigers utility man Mike Aviles Thursday.
Reporter: Are you looking forward to beating out Nick Castellanos at third base this spring?
Aviles: "I can’t wait. I went in and asked the skipper for a chance. Just give me a chance and we’ll see how things play out. (Pause) Oh, hey Nick.”
Aviles was all smiles Thursday, his first day working out with his new teammates. That in itself is not unusual. The day Mike Aviles doesn’t wear a smile at the ballpark may be the day he calls it quits.
But his heart is a whole lot lighter these days.
His 5-year-old daughter Adriana, he announced, is cancer free.
“Everything is going well with her,” he said. “She had a bone marrow transplant in December and she’s been recovering. She will be out here in a couple of weeks.”
Adriana was diagnosed with leukemia last May, when she was 4.
“She was diagnosed when they (his wife and four children) came to visit,” said Aviles, who was playing for the Indians. “They were only going to stay for a few days and wound up being stuck in Cleveland the whole year.”
The city of Cleveland rallied around the Aviles family. Adriana threw out the first pitch of a game, Aviles’ teammates shaved their heads in support, owner Paul Dolan allowed Aviles to shave his head personally and the players posed for a team picture wearing “Team Adriana” T-shirts.
While Adriana was being treated at the Cleveland Clinic, rumors began to swirl about the possibility of Aviles being dealt at the trade deadline.
“The deadline was a tough situation,” he said. “I didn’t want to get traded. It turned out the Indians didn’t want to trade me with everything going on with my family. We don’t have family in Cleveland. If I got traded somewhere in California, then my family is in Cleveland, I’m in California and neither my family nor my wife’s family are even close to them.
“It was tough but it worked out. I didn’t get traded and I was able to be there and be around for my family.”
Second only to his daughter's recovery this offseason for Aviles was the Tigers signing him to a one-year contract.
"When a team like the Tigers is interested in you, you seriously think, like, 'Why does this team want me? They have everything going on,'" he said. "But it was kind of an easy decision. When a team that's really good and in contention, trying to win a championship has some interest in you, you don't even think about it."