But baseball threw Aybar a curve Thursday, and now Mr. Toad's
Shortly after Angels right-hander
The slick-fielding Aybar, 30, will join center fielder
"It feels good," said Aybar, who drove in three runs in a 15-6 shellacking of the
That it took a wrist injury to Gordon to open a spot for Aybar in no way diminishes the achievement in the eyes of Manager
"There is no question he's All-Star worthy," Scioscia said. "I think everybody, not just in our organization but in baseball, felt he should be on that team."
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Aybar has always been more of a slash-hitter than a power hitter, but he's been such a force on offense he's gone from the team's opening-day No. 9 hitter to its fifth or sixth hitter.
He's batting .282 with six homers, 22 doubles, 48 runs batted in — most among AL shortstops — and 46 runs. He has only 35 strikeouts in 347 at-bats and is hitting .271 (26 for 96) with runners in scoring position.
"When you look at Erick, at first glance, it doesn't make a lot of sense that he's batting fifth," Scioscia said. "But the way he's hitting with runners in scoring position, driving in runs … it's been a good fit."
Good health has been a key for Aybar, who played most of 2013 with a sore left foot but is "100% right now," he said. "Nothing is bothering me. There's nothing I can't do. I feel like a different player."
Some heavier lumber may be a factor, as well. Aybar usually swings a 34-inch, 31-ounce bat, but he picked up an
"I feel comfortable with the bat," Aybar said. "That's my lucky bat. I made the All-Star team with it. I don't have much pop, but I have Albert's name on my bat, so maybe that's helped me."
As significant as his offensive contributions have been, Aybar's biggest impact is on defense. He has been solid, and sometimes spectacular, showing superb range, a strong arm and the athletic ability to make a variety of acrobatic and off-balance throws. He has only five errors in 89 games.
"Some shortstops, you'll see them make the flashy play, and a lot of times maybe the routine play they take for granted," Scioscia said. "Erick is as consistent as any shortstop I've seen. He makes a lot of tough plays look easy."
Said Trout: "He's a big reason why we're winning right now."
So is Richards, who is 10-2 with a 2.71 earned-run average and 119 strikeouts in 116 1/3 innings but, barring an injury to another AL pitcher, won't be going to the All-Star game.
"I thought I was going to make the All-Star team," Richards said. "If you look at the numbers, I've had a good first half. It's a little disappointing, but I'll have to do better next year."