Tigers seeking lift with Aybar's dynamic game

Veteran shortstop acquired in deal with Braves to provide depth

Tigers seeking lift with Aybar's dynamic game

DETROIT -- The last time Justin Verlander talked with Erick Aybar, his message was caught on camera. It was Verlander gesturing to his back to Aybar from the other dugout to let him know where he was going to get hit with a pitch after bunting on him with a no-hitter ongoing.

That was five years ago, when Aybar was a shortstop for the Angels. He's with the Tigers now, having been acquired from the Braves on Tuesday for some infield depth. And as far as Verlander is concerned, that 2011 game is a distant memory, even if he remembers it.

"I haven't hit him like I said I would," Verlander said with a smile after Tuesday night's 6-1 loss to the Royals. "At least that's a good thing, for when he gets in the clubhouse. Hey, water under the bridge, I'm sure, for both of us. It's the nature of the game."

It's also an example of Aybar's game, and the energy the Tigers are hoping he can bring. While manager Brad Ausmus and players alike were torn about losing Mike Aviles from the clubhouse, they were also hopeful Aybar can provide a presence to a team depleted by injuries.

"He could," Ausmus said. "He's that type of player, and has been that type of player in the past."

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Verlander certainly knows that.

"He brings a level of athleticism," Verlander said. "He does a lot of little things that were not fun to play against sometimes. He can hurt you in a lot of ways."

Ian Kinsler has an appreciation for players like Aybar, in part because he plays the same way. He also played against Aybar several times a year for several seasons in the American League West while with the Rangers.

"I played against him a lot when he was in Anaheim and I was in Texas," Kinsler said. "He's a very good player. He's a solid player. He does everything well. He runs the bases well, and he'll give you a good at-bat. He's won a Gold Glove, and he's good on the defensive side of the ball. Very sure handed. He's a very good player."

Though the initial assumption was that Aybar would take over filling in at shortstop while Jose Iglesias remains on the disabled list, displacing rookie Dixon Machado, Ausmus said no such decision has been made. As far as he's concerned, there's room for both on the roster.

"Right now, we haven't even discussed Machado as being part of this," Ausmus said. "Machado will still play short at times. It's a little bit different now because you have three shortstops, but we had three guys who could play shortstop before. The difference is Aviles was getting time in the outfield. We haven't really discussed doing anything with Machado. As of right now, Aybar will be here, and Machado will be here."

One player who won't be here, for sure, is Aviles, traded to Atlanta in the deal. That loss could be bigger in the clubhouse than on the field.

"It actually wasn't an easy decision to trade him," Ausmus said, "because he is such a positive influence in the dugout and in the clubhouse. People don't want to talk about that because they think that doesn't matter. But those people probably weren't here when Torii Hunter was here, and saw what type of positive influence he was."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.