Results tagged ‘ Erick Aybar ’

Figgins sits one out

Chone Figgins was in an unfamiliar position at his locker on Sunday morning.

For only the second time this season — not since April 26 — he wasn’t getting emotionally prepared to start a game.

“I’ll be ready for whatever they need,” he said. “But I don’t like sitting. Mike [Scioscia] knows that.”

Scioscia also knows everybody can use a breather now and then, so Maicer Izturis was in Figgins’ familiar role, playing third base and leading off, giving the manager a chance to play all three of his talented middle infielders – Izturis, Erick Aybar and Howard Kendrick.

“He’s played a lot,” Scioscia said. “I don’t know how many games in a row [he's played], but a day off can refresh him a little bit. He’s a gamer. It’s a good time to get him to re-charge a little.

“There’s nobody in that room who’s not resistant to a day off, but you need to mentally re-charge.”

Figgins’ streak of consecutive starts ended at 92. He’d last sat one out on April 26 against the Mariners, with Aybar taking the leadoff spot.

Before the season, Figgins said his goal was to “play all 162,” referencing iron man Cal Ripken Jr. Maybe he’ll settle for 160.

Izturis and Figgins are locker neighbors in the home clubhouse, with Bobby Abreu on the other side of Figgins. Izturis is the least talkative of the threesome, but he’s always smiling.

“Izzy is my boy,” Figgins said. “If anybody’s going to take my place, I’m glad it’s him. He keeps me together.”

Izturis looked over and, naturally, smiled.

 

    

No deal not necessarily a bad deal

The Angels overrate their prospects. If that’s what you’re hearing or reading in the wake of their inability to swing a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal for a four-star pitcher, you don’t necessarily have to buy it.

I mean, seriously, how do you overrate prospects who have helped you win more games over the past 4 seasons than any other team in Major League Baseball? That doesn’t make much sense.

You’d think lesser clubs would want to latch onto some of those kids who have helped drive manager Mike Scioscia’s troupe to 438 wins, heading into this six-game road trip, against 309 losses since the start of the 2005 season. Next best: Yankees, at 436-313, then the Red Sox, at 429-318.

Not bad, as company goes.

You’d think clubs languishing on the fringes of contention would welcome the opportunity to import some of this talent from an organization that plays aggressive, exciting, winning baseball from rookie ball on up.

Without full knowledge of what was offered and what was rejected, my sense is the Angels put together some very fair proposals – particularly for Roy Halladay and Heath Bell – and, for whatever reason, were simply rejected.

Maybe Toronto didn’t really want to part with Halladay. Maybe San Diego couldn’t live without Bell, when it was all said and done. I don’t know. But I have been around Angels players now long enough, organization-wide, to appreciate their skill, intelligence and will.

If Erick Aybar was a deal-breaker with Toronto, I’m good with that. He’s on his way to greatness, and Angels fans will be dazzled by his many gifts for years to come.

This whole business of desperately needing No. 1 starters to win in the postseason is an urban myth. If you’re looking for something that’s overrated, here it is. I don’t recall the Big Red Machine in Cincinnati needing a hand full of aces.

The Angels didn’t have a No. 1 in the classic mold in 2002. The Athletics had three legit No. 1s – Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson – that season and couldn’t win a postseason series. The Braves had three certified No. 1s – Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz — for a full decade. They claimed one Fall Classic.

Dominant starting pitching is great, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not a be-all, cure-all, end-all. It guarantees nothing.

Here’s what matters in October: momentum. Positive, upbeat, driving momentum generated by quality play, good pitching and a dash of good fortune here and there.

It looks wide open this season, from this laptop. The Angels have a shot at going all the way if things fall into place. They’re due for a break or two in October.

Halladay absolutely would have been a terrific addition. But not at the cost of the heart of your club.

As for Bell, he’s a shiny Cadillac parked in a dark garage. Would he have helped the Angels? Sure. But they might end up getting more production out of the players the Padres didn’t seem to want.

Who knows? Crazy stuff happens all the time. It’s baseball. Nobody is nearly as smart as he or she claims to be.

 

 

Angels stand pat

General manager Tony Reagins said the Angels came up empty in their efforts to make a non-waiver Trade Deadline deal when they were unable to match up with other clubs.

Reagins was not specific about which clubs he was talking with, but reports indicated that the Angels made concerted efforts to acquire Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays and Heath Bell from the Padres.

“It really came down to not being the best fit for either party,” Reagins said. “We had a comfort level that we could go in certain situations and were willing to be aggressive. [Owner] Arte Moreno gave us no restraints. We went in with the idea of improving the club. A lot of effort was put into the process. From that standpoint, you move forward. We have business to take care of. Our focus is on Minnesota tonight. Our 25 guys have a comfort level they are going to be here for the rest of the year.”

There was one report that the Angels were close to a last-minute deal for Halladay, but Reagins would not confirm that. The Jays reportedly wanted shortstop Erick Aybar, infielder Brandon Wood, starter Joe Saunders and a prime prospect.

“Utimately, you have to find a match,” Reagins said. “You may offer talented players, but if the deal doesn’t fit for both parties . . . that’s the situation we were in. From a personnel standpoint, we made proposals that were very competitive and made sense. But the other side has to feel they made sense as well.”

 

    

Aybar close to untouchable

For the record, the Angels say nobody on their roster is untouchable. But Erick Aybar is about as close as it gets.

Staying healthy and in the lineup after missing chunks of the past two seasons with hand and hamstring injuries, the 25-year-old shortstop from Bani, Dominican Republic is emerging as one of the game’s most exciting young talents.

Aybar grew up wanting to be like Rafael Furcal, and he is getting there in a hurry by combining superb and consistent defense with a sizzling bat and blazing speed on the basepaths.

With extraordinary range and only five errors in 79 games, Aybar’s .986 fielding percentage is surpassed by only three regular Major League shortstops. He’s batting .316 overall and in the clutch, with a .355 on-base percentage that represents huge improvement over his .298 figure coming into the season.

As Angels general manager Tony Reagins engages in dialogue with other clubs as the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches on Friday, Aybar is a popular topic.

You can ask for him, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get him.

Toronto apparently found that out when it demanded Aybar as part of a multi-player package in exchange for Roy Halladay. The Angels are believed to be maneuvering for the Indians’ Cliff Lee, but Aybar again could be a deal-breaker.

“It doesn’t affect me,” Aybar said on Tuesday night through Jose Mota’s translation. “I have a job to do. I can’t worry about my name being out there. It’s flattering teams want me, but it also makes me sad.”

He loves the team he’s with and the style it plays, which is perfectly suited to his skills. Manager Mike Scioscia realizes that there are few athletes in the game on Aybar’s level, having repeatedly expressed the view that Erick has star potential once he settles in and shows consistency with the bat and in the field.

Coming into Tuesday night’s game against the Indians, Aybar was leading Angels regulars with his .316 average, ahead of Bobby Abreu (.314), Juan Rivera (.311), Chone Figgins (.309), Torii Hunter (.305) and Maicer Izturis (.300).

It’s a deep and formidable lineup, and when Aybar is linked with Figgins on the bases, it can be a show. You’d be hard-pressed to find two quicker, swifter baserunners in the same lineup. It calls to mind the St. Louis days when Vince Coleman, Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee ran circles around teams. 

“I feel confident,” Aybar said. “One thing I don’t feel is complacent. It feels good to be playing at this level. It’s a lot of fun.”

With an embarrassment of middle-infield riches – Aybar, Izturis, Howard Kendrick, Brandon Wood, Sean Rodriguez – along with other assets, the Angels could swing a deal by the deadline for a big-time starter or veteran setup man in front of Brian Fuentes.

Just don’t expect Aybar to be part of it.
 

Halladay, Angels could be a dream fit

The word is out that the Blue Jays are listening to proposals for Roy Halladay, who has few peers among starting pitchers. No team values starters more highly than the Angels. They have made inquiries, knowing how much Halladay’s talent and endurance would mean in a rotation that has been patched together all season as a result of injuries and tragedy in the form of the death of Nick Adenhart.

The obvious question is this: How high can, or would, they go to import a dominant starter at the top of his game, signed through next season? He’s making $14.25 million this season, $15.75 next year.

The Blue Jays reportedly would want a quality shortstop — the Angels are loaded there — and young pitching talent in exchange for a man who gives you seven to nine innings of high-level work every fifth day.

Probably the only commodity the Angels value as highly as starting pitching is young talent, and therein lines the rub.

Staying healthy for the first time, Erick Aybar has established himself this season as one of the premier young shortstops in the game. He could be featured in an attractive package. If the Blue Jays prefer power, Brandon Wood is one of the elite young mashers in the game, just waiting for his opportunity in Triple-A Salt Lake to show he’s the real deal.

The Angels are rich in young talent. They have youthful pitching (Sean O’Sullivan, Jordan Walden, Trevor Reckling, among others) that would have to appeal to Toronto. It’s conceivable but unlikely they would consider moving one of their established starters — Ervin Santana or Joe Saunders, most likely — in a Halladay deal.

The Jays are in a position of strength and don’t have to do anything. But they’re in a top-heavy division, chasing the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays in the AL East, and as great as Halladay is, it’s highly doubtful Toronto can put together a surge to catch them.

The Phillies are seen as the leading candidates to land Halladay, if he is moved. They have the youthful talent to get it done and clearly are in need of a front-line starter. The level of the Angels’ need is not as high as Philadelphia’s, but as they showed last July with Mark Teixeira, they’re not averse to making the big, bold move.

The Angels have a lot of decisions to make this winter, with Vladimir Guerrero, John Lackey, Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, Kelvim Escobar, Robb Quinlan and Darren Oliver all eligible for free agency. Taking on Halladay’s contract would be no issue with so much payroll potentially coming off the books.

When the Padres’ Jake Peavy was available over the winter, the Angels gave it serious consideration but never made a big pitch. There were concerns about how his shoulder and elbow would hold up over the long haul. With Halladay, who has been as durable as they come with superior mechanics, that is not an issue.

This is about as tempting as it gets. For Halladay, who has made it clear he wants to pitch for a winner if he leaves Toronto, the interest would have to be mutual. The Angels offer pretty much everything a player can want. Just ask Torii Hunter. He’ll talk all day about that.  

      

Napoli, DH

Here’s how the Angels will line up against Andy Pettitte — rain is falling on a tarp in the late afternoon — at Yankee Stadium:

1. Chone Figgins, 3B

2. Gary Matthews Jr., RF

3. Bobby Abreu, LF

4. Torii Hunter, CF

5. Mike Napoli, DH

6. Howard Kendrick, 2B

7. Robb Quinlan, 1B

8. Jeff Mathis, C

9. Erick Aybar, SS

Jered Weaver, P

 

This is a big night for Napoli and his fans.Manager Mike Scioscia putting the big bopper in the DH spot could be a one-night stand, or it could be the start of something big — and productive.

Napoli has a big, long swing — and the highest home run ration in history among catchers. Critics would scoff that it’s a small sample, representing just 50 home runs, in relation to past receivers of renown such as Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench and Roy Campanella.

But Napoli is a born hitter. Jeff Mathis is a terrific catcher, young and getting better all the time. It makes great sense to have both of these guys in the lineup, as often as they can handle it. That’s why it seems like the right thing to do — Napoli as DH, catching occasionally, with Bobby Wilson summoned from Triple-A Salt Lake to back up Mathis.

Quinlan, a .417 career hitter against Pettitte with a double, two RBIs in 12 at-bats, also gets a start at first base in the wake of a rough night for Morales in the series opener. Kendry was hitless in four at-bats, striking out three times, after a recent surge of hits.

Old school to the bone, I do not like the idea of carrying 12 pitchers. I didn’t care for going to 11, frankly. I recognize that the bullpen has been beaten up a little bit in the season’s first month, but four position players off the bench reduces a manager’s options late in games. I’d rather have that extra bench player than a reliever who is there primarily to soak up innings in lost causes, after a starter has been knocked out early.

We’ll see if it lasts, Napoli as a DH, or if it’s a one-time thing. But I like it. I like it a lot. I think Napoli, with 550 to 600 at-bats and free of the physical burden of catching frequently, can hit 40 homers and drive in more than 100 runs.

“Nap’s got big-time power, man,” Hunter said the other day. “The guy can mash.”

Tonight, Napoli will be protecting Hunter, the cleanup man, in the No. 5 hole.

Surely, a factor in Scioscia’s decision is Napoli’s history against Pettitte. He’s 3-for-5 with a double. But when he’s locked in, seeing the ball well and driving it, no yard can hold him. Napoli in the batter’s box is a weapon.   

Hunter scalding hot

Torii Hunter made it four homers in three games today with another blast  over the wall in center field. He knows he’s locked in when he’s smoking balls to the middle of the field, and that’s where he is right now. Before the homer, he launched one that was caught at the wall in right center that would have been gone in Texas.

Mike Scioscia has to like what he sees at the top of the order, with Chone Figgins smacking line drives all over the place and Howard Kendrick looking very comfortable in the No. 2 hole. Kendrick will learn that he’ll see a high percentage of fastballs hitting between Figgins and Bobby Abreu, who has tested pitchers’ endurance for years with his remarkable discipline.

As for Vladimir Guerrero, who crushed a double to cash in Abreu before Hunter’s bomb, everything appears to be in fine order for a 35 HR/125-RBI campaign. With Kendry Morales, Juan Rivera or Gary Matthews and Mike Napoli or Jeff Mathis coming up behind the top five, the Angels are going to score runs in numbers. And Erick Aybar/Maicer Izturis will serve as, in effect, a leadoff man in front of the leadoff man, Figgy.

I don’t think what we’re seeing this spring, this offensive explosion, is an aberration, a case of cleaning  up on bad pitching. This is a good offense — and it could be a great offense if the big guns (and the top two) stay healthy. And even if they don’t stay healthy, they won’t lose a thing if  Robb Quinlan, Brandon Wood, Matt Brown, Sean Rodriguez or Reggie Willits stand in for a spell.

The Angels have enough position players to field another quality Major League team. It almost isn’t fair when you see what they have in relation to what some other clubs are putting on the field.   

Wood dazzles at shortstop

Brandon Wood’s eyes seem to brighten when he looks at the lineup card and sees he’s at shortstop. He put on another show at his natural position on Saturday in Tucson. Unfortunately, it went largely unnoticed, obscured by the events surrounding John Lackey’s forearm and Mike Napoli’s return behind the plate.

Facing Dan Haren, one of the game’s premier right-handers, in the second inning after Haren had set down the first five men he faced, Wood went with a slider on an 0-1 count and launched it over the wall in right field.

“I hit it on the sweet spot,” Wood said, his fourth Cactus League homer tying him with Jeff Mathis for the club lead. “Any time you can go deep on a guy like that, it feels good.”

But the best was about to come. Arizona catcher Miguel Montero hit a ground ball seemingly headed for left field. Wood got there running full-tilt, leaped and whirled in a motion that Derek Jeter has come to popularize, and gunned down the runner with a strong, accurate throw.

“I like defense,” Wood said when asked which of the two acts — the opposite-field homer or sensational play in the field — was more gratifying. “To get out there at shortstop and make a play, I really enjoy that. Normally, you want to try to plant and set for the throw, but in that case, moving as fast as I was, it probably would have taken four or five steps to get set. So I went in the air and let it fly.”

It was clearly a big-league play by a big-league shortstop. With Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Sean Rodriguez — great athlete, gun of an arm — also at the position, the Angels have an embarrassment of riches.

Wood wasn’t quite done. Later in the game, he appeared to break his bat launching a 340-foot foul drive into the left-field corner. It turns out he’d actually broken the bat on an earlier pitch in the at-bat.

“I hit a line drive on a 2-0 pitch, and that’s when I broke it,” Wood said. “When I hit the ball down the line, it didn’t travel as far as I thought it would. I looked at the bat, and the handle was cracked.”

Solid glove, strong arm, awesome power. Nice tool kit Brandon is carrying around.

     

Kendrick could flourish as No. 2 hitter

Howard. That’s what his wife, Jody, and his family members call the Angels’ second baseman, known in the baseball world as Howie Kendrick. I tried calling him Howard in print for a time last season — he told me it didn’t matter one way or another to him — but it seemed to confuse readers, so I went back to Howie.

He told me this morning that he became Howie after a baseball card company asked if it could call him Howie rather than Howard. It picked up momentum when he was in the minor leagues, and he’s been Howie ever since — even though those close to him call him Howard.

So … on to the news of the day. When the season opens and he’s announced as Howie Kendrick at Angel Stadium, he could be in the No. 2 spot in the order, between Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu. It was manager Mike Scioscia’s initial plan to bat the highly selective Abreu second, followed by Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter. But Kendrick’s strong spring and growth as a hitter seems to be moving Scioscia toward a new look.

I love the idea of Kendrick batting second, the more I think about it. For one thing, it will give him as many as 70 to 80 more at-bats than he would get hitting down in the order, and this guy could be a batting champion very soon. He drives the ball to all fields and doesn’t strike out a lot, and he’s an exceptional baserunner. Figgins likes the idea of Howie hitting behind him, and Abreu has batted third most of his career. So it makes sense on a number of levels.

Scioscia made an interesting point about why Kendrick doesn’t walk more. He squares up balls and puts them in play at a high rate. But he is learning how to work counts, and he’s totally into the game. Reggie Willits, one of the smartest guys I’ve been around, hit in front of Kendrick in the minors and thinks Howard has everything you’re looking for in a No. 2 hitter.

We’ll see where it goes from here. Scioscia has been known to experiment with lineups. Maicer Izturis also is highly capable of being a solid No. 2 hitter, and Erick Aybar also has made strides in his selectivity. But Kendrick is a special hitter — a “freak of nature,” Willits calls him, with utmost respect. , ,  

Moseley sharp again

Dustin Moseley continued his impressive march toward a spot in the Angels’ rotation with his most effective effort yet of the spring.

Stretching it out to five innings, Moseley held the White Sox scoreless on four hits and a walk, striking out four men. Three of the four were caught looking, indicating Moseley had his two-seam fastball getting excellent late movement. He was effective down in the zone, creating seven outs on the ground.

Moseley’s biggest predicament came in the third following back-to-back singles with two outs, but dangerous Jim Thome grounded out to Howie Kendrick on a fine play at second base.

Moseley has yielded four earned runs across 14 Cactus League innings, but two of those were gifts on a windblown pop fly in the sun that Erick Aybar couldn’t find.

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