Loss of Erick Aybar doesn't affect Angels' win over Tigers

Shortstop Erick Aybar misses his first game this season after hamstring injury and is day to day

The Angels' lineup sported a completely different look Friday night.

For the first time in 49 games this season, Erick Aybar was not at shortstop or in Manager Mike Scioscia's batting order because of a hamstring injury suffered the night before.

"It will be strange … not seeing him out there," Scioscia said before the second of a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers. "Hopefully, it's just a day or two."

Taylor Featherston played shortstop and batted ninth, and second baseman Johnny Giavotella took Aybar's spot at the top of the order.

The Angels felt no ill effect as starter Hector Santiago and two relievers combined for the team's fourth shutout of the season, and Albert Pujols hit his second home run in as many nights in a 2-0 victory at Angel Stadium.

"I wasn't spot on — I wasn't executing every pitch exactly where I wanted," said Santiago, who went 71/3 innings in his longest outing of the season. "But when I missed, it was a good miss."

Scioscia said it was "about as strong an effort as we've seen" from Santiago.

"He was in the zone like he's been for most of his starts," Scioscia said.

The Angels are hoping that Aybar will return soon and help them extend their modest two-game winning streak.

Outfielder Mike Trout is the reigning American League most valuable player, and first baseman Pujols is a future Hall of Famer, but Aybar is also a key player for a team that improved to 25-24.

"As far as a household name, yeah, he might not be up there with Albert and Mike, but he's every bit as valuable," Scioscia said.

Aybar, 31, is batting .344 with a home run and seven runs batted in his last 24 games. He had reached base safely in 40 of 48 games.

He left during Thursday night's victory over the Tigers after putting down a bunt in the fifth inning and then feeling tightness in his left hamstring.

Aybar, in his 10th major league season, said Friday that he felt a little bit of "pinching" in his left leg on Thursday but was feeling much better. The Angels still decided to hold him out and restrict his activity.

Aybar said he did not want to take days off.

"But that's part of the game," he said, "and that happens."

Catcher Chris Iannetta said the Angels could deal with Aybar's absence.

"A guy like Aybar, he plays every day, he plays hard and never wants to come out," Iannetta said. "He'll play through pain, he'll play through injury. … As a team we're all professionals. We know how to adjust."

During his pregame meeting with reporters, Scioscia described Aybar's status as "day to day."

He acknowledged fearing the worst when Aybar pulled up Thursday night.

"You're racing in your mind, 'Is this thing something that he's got to come out for the rest of this game or is this thing going to be a month,'" Scioscia said. "You just never know with hamstrings. Obviously, it seems like we're in the day-to-day range right now."

Featherston, 25, entered Friday having played in 23 games, including three as a starter at second base.

"This is one of those situations where I have to step in and make a smooth transition that nobody even notices, really, that he's gone for a day or two," Featherston said of Aybar. "That's what my job is, and I'll be ready to go."

Featherston was batting .042 and was hitless in his last 17 at-bats.

"He's really a very good defensive player," Scioscia said. "He hasn't had a enough continuity in his at-bats to find his timing, find his rhythm. It's more hit or miss."

On Friday, Featherston handled a ground ball and a pop-up without error and went hitless in three at-bats. He grounded out on an outstanding back-hand play by shortstop Jose Iglesias and struck out twice.

If Aybar is sidelined for more than a few days, Scioscia said, Featherston and Grant Green are short-term options in Aybar's place.

Josh Rutledge, acquired in a trade with the Colorado Rockies in December, is playing shortstop at Triple-A Salt Lake. Ryan Jackson also is on the roster.

If Aybar is out for an extended period, Scioscia said, he would consider moving outfielder Kole Calhoun back to the leadoff spot.

"Hopefully," he said, "we're not presented with that."


Twitter: @latimesklein

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