Angels missing Aybar's presence in lineup, at short

Angels missing Aybar's presence in lineup, at short

KANSAS CITY -- Angels shortstop Erick Aybar missed his third straight game while continuing to recover from a stiff lower back on Saturday, and he will probably miss a fourth in Sunday's series finale at Kauffman Stadium. The 31-year-old switch-hitter hopes to return to the Angels' lineup for Monday's home opener against the White Sox, but that's contingent on how much progress he can make over the next 48 hours.

Aybar said his injured back, which stems from a diving catch in Chicago on Wednesday, "is getting better every day." He did some light defensive drills prior to Saturday's game and is still confident he'll avoid a stint on the 15-day disabled list.

Without him, the Angels' reeling offense is in a bind.

The only other shortstop on the active roster is rookie Taylor Featherston, a Rule 5 Draft selection who has managed only 12 hits in his first 89 at-bats. With Josh Rutledge and Eric Stamets traded in July, the only other player in the organization capable of filling in at shortstop is Ryan Jackson, who can be called up from Triple-A Salt Lake if the Angels determine that Aybar needs more time.

Neither of them can really replace him, though.

"It's an eye-opener for some people when a person like Erick is not there, because a lot of people take him for granted," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Not us. He's part of the heartbeat of this team. He plays every game, every inning, and plays at such a high level and can really do so many things on the field that helps you win games. A big piece of our lineup is missing."

In his place is Featherston, who entered Saturday with a .135/.196/.202 slash line through the first 100 plate appearances of his Major League career. His placement on the roster isn't necessarily ideal. Featherston, who hadn't played above Double-A before this season, has remained in the big leagues all year because the Angels want to keep him long term and he'd have to be offered back to the Rockies if taken off the active roster.

Featherston will have three option years after this season, at which point he may be able to get the everyday at-bats at Triple-A to grow as a professional hitter.

For now, he's simply learning on the job.

"He's still raw," said Scioscia, who stressed that Featherston needs to play winter ball this offseason. "There are going to be some at-bats he's going to be over-matched because he hasn't experienced some things. He hasn't played at Triple-A or winter ball to understand adjustments he has to make. These are adjustments every player has to make, and Taylor is not in that classroom right now because he's not playing enough. He's just trying to absorb the Major Leagues."

Worth noting
• The Angels believed they were going to get a deal done with veteran second baseman Chase Utley on Friday and remained hopeful Saturday. Utley can veto any trade and is also weighing offers from the Giants, Astros, Dodgers, Cubs and Yankees. The Angels can offer him everyday playing time at second base and designated hitter.

David Freese tried to throw again on Friday "and there was not much progress," Scioscia said, adding that it's "definitely going in the right direction, but not enough to call it day to day." The Angels still hope Freese can start a rehab assignment next week and can only fit him on the roster if he's capable of playing third base.

Collin Cowgill (sprained right wrist) went 1-for-7 while playing a couple of rehab games at Class A Advanced Inland Empire and was moved to Salt Lake on Saturday. Cowgill will likely stay in Salt Lake upon being activated off the disabled list, then can come up when rosters expand in September.

• Outfielder Matt Joyce, on the DL since suffering a concussion on July 26, will start a rehab assignment with Salt Lake on Saturday. Joyce can stay on his rehab assignment until the start of September, at which point the Angels can fit him on the active roster. Position players can be on a rehab assignment for up to 20 days.

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.