Leadoff role won't change Aybar's aggressive approach

Angels shuffle lineup in effort to spark offense

Leadoff role won't change Aybar's aggressive approach

TORONTO -- Slap-hitting shortstop Erick Aybar has transitioned from hitting in an RBI spot of the Angels' lineup to batting leadoff, a situation that typically warrants more patience and a higher walk rate. But Aybar vows not to change his approach just because he's batting directly in front of Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

He's learned his lesson.

"That's what happened to me before, when I was hitting leadoff as a younger guy," Aybar said in Spanish. "I changed my approach. I started taking a lot of pitches, got myself in a lot of two-strike counts, and so I'd be putting that pressure on myself. But I know the game better now. I know when I have to take, when I don't have to take, when to be aggressive, when not to be aggressive. The more years go by, the more you learn. I'll keep being aggressive and calm."

Aybar's move from mostly the fifth or sixth spot to first was caused by Kole Calhoun becoming the Angels' cleanup hitter on Monday, a move necessitated by an offense that has lacked production from the middle of the lineup.

Aybar doesn't walk a lot -- he ranked 184th among qualified players in plate appearances per walk from 2009-14 -- but doesn't strike out a lot, either. Angels manager Mike Scioscia believes he can take advantage of potentially seeing more strikes by batting in front of Trout.

He wants Aybar to continue to be his aggressive self -- and not fall into the mindset of 2010, when he began the year replacing Chone Figgins in the leadoff spot and finished May with a .243/.316/.311 slash line.

"I think at first Erick was trying to pattern himself after [Figgins]," Scioscia said, "and that really isn't his game."

Worth noting

• Playing on the new, softer surface at Rogers Centre has caused Aybar to feel some pain in his lower back and hamstrings. The veteran shortstop has been able to combat it with extra massage therapy before games, but is among those who isn't necessarily a fan of the turf.

"It's bad," he said.

• Rookie utility infielder Taylor Featherston started Wednesday's game at second base, after starting Tuesday's at third, because Scioscia wanted to give Johnny Giavotella a rest. Rookie catcher Carlos Perez started in place of the hot-hitting Chris Iannetta -- seven hits in his last 12 at-bats -- and has now caught each of Jered Weaver's last three starts.

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.