Aybar still a work in progress

Times Staff Writer

The routine doesn’t change for Erick Aybar, even when the job description does.

Becoming the Angels’ everyday shortstop in the wake of an injury to Maicer Izturis didn’t keep Aybar from joining the handful of players who took early batting practice Friday afternoon at Angel Stadium.

“I still treat it like I’m not going to play every day,” Aybar said through an interpreter before the Angels played Minnesota. “I’m going to come early to work out and improve my game. That’s the only way I know how to approach the game.”

Aybar’s approach has resulted in some spectacular plays and some erratic ones, including a first-inning error Friday in which he deftly fielded Randy Ruiz’s smash but pulled first baseman Mark Teixeira off the bag with his throw. He made another throwing error in the seventh.


The errors gave Aybar a team-worst 14 this season but were his first in eight games since taking over for Izturis, who was lost for the season earlier this month because of a torn thumb ligament.

“I’ve seen him play well in winter ball, but this is the best I’ve ever seen him play,” infield coach Alfredo Griffin said of Aybar. “I hope he continues doing that.”

Aybar contributed a game-saving play in the seventh inning last Saturday against Cleveland when he retreated into shallow left field and made a diving catch to rob Ryan Garko of a bases-loaded hit.

“I’m understanding more about positioning in the big leagues and tendencies,” Aybar said. “Those are plays that are fun to make, but you can’t script them because they just happen by instinct.”


Brotherly battle?

If the Angels meet Tampa Bay in the playoffs, it could be an October to remember for every member of the Aybar family except one -- Erick’s mother.

“That would be the worst-case scenario,” Aybar said of the possibility of playing against his brother, Rays third baseman Willy Aybar. “She would be a real mess, nervous.”

And how would Erick feel about that matchup?


“It would be special if it’s against my brother’s team,” he said.

Willy Aybar could emerge as an unlikely postseason hero considering that he missed all of last season dealing with a wrist injury, a suspension for failing to show up for two games with Atlanta, a substance abuse problem that landed him in a rehabilitation clinic, and domestic violence charges that landed him in a Dominican Republic jail before his wife withdrew the complaint.

Rare start for Matthews

Manager Mike Scioscia started Torii Hunter at designated hitter Friday, saying he wanted to “let his legs recharge a little bit” after recently playing three games in the outfield on the unforgiving synthetic turf of Tropicana Field.


Gary Matthews Jr. started in center field, marking only his fifth start this month.

Short hops

Scioscia said adding pitching depth and a third catcher from the Angels’ minor league system would be a priority when rosters expand Sept. 1. . . . Fans who want priority ahead of the general public for tickets to American League division series games at Angel Stadium must register at by midnight Sept. 12.