Erick Aybar isn’t setting the table at the plate
Erick Aybar provided a major lift for the Angels last season, hitting a team-best .312 while playing stellar defense at shortstop.
One year later, his defense is still superb.
His offense? What a drag.
Aybar has struggled mightily since taking over Chone Figgins’ leadoff spot, contributing to the Angels’ season-long offensive woes.
He is hitting .207 since April 18 after going two for five Tuesday during the Angels’ 8-7 loss to Texas at the Ballpark in Arlington, dropping his average from .298 to .236. His .304 on-base percentage entering the game ranked 18th among major league leadoff hitters.
“I’m just going through a dry spell right now,” Aybar said through an interpreter before the game. “But there’s no need to change anything in terms of what I’ve done in the past approach-wise.”
The Angels might make a switch atop their batting order once Maicer Izturis returns from the disabled list in about a week. Izturis could take Aybar’s leadoff spot and replace the struggling Brandon Wood at third base, at least on a part-time basis.
Manager Mike Scioscia said he could alternate Aybar, Izturis and Howie Kendrick in the top two batting spots, giving the Angels different combinations as they attempt to spark an offense that entered Tuesday ranked eighth in the American League in runs and ninth in batting average. Their current alternatives are limited beyond rookie Kevin Frandsen, an option that Scioscia appears reluctant to use.
“We have confidence that Erick’s going to do the things we want from a guy that’s supposed to set the table, and hopefully we’ll start to see it,” Scioscia said.
Part of Aybar’s problems, Scioscia said, stem from being too selective. Aybar has 16 walks in 157 at-bats, more than half the 30 he accumulated all of last season.
Aybar has continued to impress defensively, committing only three errors in 39 games and making scores of spectacular plays.
“He’s won many games for us in the field this year going 0 for 5,” Scioscia said.
Even in the midst of one of the most prolonged slumps of his career, Aybar said he wasn’t worried about losing the leadoff spot.
“Wherever he puts me,” Aybar said of Scioscia, “I’m going to come in here, be happy and do my job.”
When Jason Bulger and Brian Fuentes each pitched a scoreless inning Tuesday in their first appearances since May 10. Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen haven’t pitched in a week.
It’s been an extended breather for the back of the Angels’ bullpen, a rare luxury attributable to a pair of recent shutouts and a lack of late leads in tight ballgames.
“For the most part it’s been good to let those guys catch their breath a little bit because some of them have pitched a lot,” Scioscia said.
Back in the fold
Bobby Abreu started in right field and went two for four with a run-scoring double one day after being limited to pinch-hitting duties because of back stiffness.
He also dropped a fly ball off the bat of Texas’ Justin Smoak in the eighth inning, but the Angels caught a break when catcher Mike Napoli fielded Matt Treanor’s sacrifice bunt attempt and threw out Smoak attempting to advance to third base.
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