It is with a sense of relief that Royals shortstop Mike Aviles now looks forward to reconstructive-elbow surgery and the prospect of spending the next nine to 12 months in rehabilitation.
Uncertainty was far worse.
"Before, I didn't know what it was," Aviles said. "I just knew something was wrong. It wasn't just baseball. It was affecting my everyday life. I couldn't lift certain bags or open doors or stuff like that."
The procedure, commonly know as Tommy John surgery, is set for July 8 in Los Angeles and will be performed by Lewis Yocum, a specialist in the field.
Typical recovery time for non-pitchers is nine to 12 months, but Aviles hopes -- expects, really -- to beat the timetable.
"If I was a pitcher," he said, "I know it would be 12 months or more. But I'm hoping to be ready for spring training. I know when I'm healthy, I can help this team, and that's all I'm thinking about now -- getting back to the guys."
Aviles, 28, began experiencing soreness in his right forearm and elbow in spring training and never showed the form that last season made him the Royals' player of the year as a rookie.
Even so, he kept quiet until his lack of production forced him to acknowledge the problem.
"If I had it to do over, sure, I would have said something sooner," Aviles said. "But I didn't know what it was. I thought I could play through it. But it kept getting worse and got to the point where I couldn't deal with it anymore.
"I was holding the bat differently at the plate to try to keep it from hurting. It affected the way I threw in the field. I said I know I can help this team if I'm healthy. Well, now I know I can't help if I'm not healthy.”
Aviles was batting just .183 with one homer and eight RBIs in 36 games before going on the disabled list after the May 23 game in St. Louis. He had only four hits, all singles, in his final 39 at-bats.
Yocum and Steve Joyce, the Royals' chief physician, initially prescribed rest in hopes the elbow would strengthen on its own. Aviles went more than a month with no throwing before testing his elbow.
"I wasn't in a very good mood," Aviles admitted. "Just the thought of having surgery made me mad. But when I tried to throw, it was no good. On my first throw, the pain went through my elbow and was as bad as ever.
"That’s when I knew we had to do something. I knew it wasn't going to get better through rehab (alone)."
Aviles was the Royals' player of the year last season as a rookie when he batted .325 with 10 homers and 51 RBIs in 102 games. His absence is keenly felt on a team that ranks 13th among 14 American League clubs in runs, homers, batting average and on-base percentage.
“It’s very discouraging,” manager Trey Hillman said. “The guy is our player of the year last year after winning the shortstop job and battling his rear end off in the minor leagues for (several) seasons.
“It’s impactful news, not only to us but to him as well.”
Aviles chooses to focus on the positive -- now, at least, a plan is in place that allows him to work toward regaining his job as the Royals’ shortstop.
“It’s a matter of getting to the point where I’m healthy again,” he said. “I can’t wait to get back with the guys. We’ve had some things happen this year, but we’re a good team. I know it. And I know I can help this team if I’m healthy.”