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Pestano, Aviles share memories of Dr. Yocum

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CINCINNATI -- There are many players throughout baseball who have a scar on the inner side of their elbow. It is a daily reminder of a career nearly derailed, and a considerable amount of those players have Dr. Lewis Yocum to thank for staying on the field.

In Cleveland's clubhouse, setup man Vinnie Pestano and infielder Mike Aviles -- both grateful for Yocum's part in saving their careers -- were saddened to learn of the renowned doctor's passing on Tuesday. Yocum died Saturday at his home following a battle with liver cancer. He was 66.

"I was very upset to hear that," Pestano said. "For all the encounters, all the meetings I had, he was great to sit there and bounce stuff off him and asking questions. He handled everything great, with professionalism, and he did a great job of settling my nerves and he'd always shoot you straight."

Pestano underwent Tommy John surgery in May 2006 and was selected by the Indians in the 20th round of the First-Year Player Draft that June. After his surgery and recovery, Pestano rose swiftly through Cleveland's farm system and is now one of the top setup men in the American League.

"I actually owe a great deal to him," Pestano said. "I had two MRIs before that review -- not by him. They said there was no structural damage with the ligament. But then he ordered that I get the exam with the dye. That's when they found the tear. He's the one who actually confirmed my suspicions.

"To have him find it, it was a relief, because I knew I wasn't crazy, and then I decided to have the surgery. It was definitely the most important part of my career at that point. ... I always trusted him. He knew my elbow better than anybody else."

It is less common for a position player to undergo Tommy John surgery, but Aviles is one of the exceptions. In his second big league season in 2009, Aviles was named the Royals' Opening Day shortstop, but was shelved with the arm injury by May and under the knife by July.

"When I had the opportunity to meet Yocum, it wasn't the greatest of situations," Aviles said. "But, I'm also meeting with arguably one of the best doctors in that profession. So that gave me a little sense of calm. After talking to him, and him diagnosing my elbow with needing Tommy John, it was definitely an interesting thing. But I talked to him a lot.

"Halfway through the rehab, he was calling me to get updates and asking me how I was feeling. To me, most doctors will give you a surgery and then go through the team for updates. It meant a lot to me that he would actually call me on my cell phone, and text me and ask how things were going. It showed me how much he cared."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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