Aybar looks to continue hot hitting against White Sox; Kendrick not in lineup
Erick Aybar never quite took to the leadoff spot last season. After his break-out 2009, when he hit .312 with a .353 on-base percentage, 70 runs and 58 runs batted in, the Angels shortstop slumped to a .253 average, .306 on-base percentage, 69 runs and 29 RBIs in 2010.
Aybar is a naturally aggressive hitter who was extremely productive in the bottom third of the order in 2009. But when he was moved to the top to replace Chone Figgins last season, Aybar, in an effort to take more pitches and work more counts, became too tentative, letting too many good-hitting pitches go by and swinging at too many tough pitcher's pitches.
This season, Aybar has gone back to his more comfortable, attacking style -- he has walked only three times in 21 games entering Monday night's game against the Chicago White Sox -- and it has worked regardless of where he has hit in the lineup.
Aybar entered Monday with a .356 average, which would lead the American League if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. The switch-hitter missed 14 games in April because of a strained left rib-cage muscle.
Since April 21, Aybar is 26 for 71 (.366) with four doubles, one triple and eight runs in 17 games. In nine of those games, Aybar hit leadoff, including Sunday, when his two-run double snapped a 4-4 tie and propelled the Angels to a 6-5 win over Cleveland.
"Whether I'm batting first, second, third or ninth, I'm just trying to do my job," Aybar said. "I'm not trying to be too patient and take too many pitches. I see the ball, I swing. That has helped me. I'll try to take pitches in certain situations, but Sunday I got one right down the middle [on the second pitch of the at-bat] and swung."
Second baseman Howie Kendrick has also been hot, with five straight multiple-hit games, in which he went 11 for 24, raising his average from .294 to .322. But Kendrick is not in Monday's lineup because he has started all but one of the team's first 35 games and is 1 for 13 lifetime against White Sox starter Edwin Jackson. Manager Mike Scioscia said Kendrick will return to the lineup Tuesday night.
The Angels lineup: SS Erick Aybar, DH Bobby Abreu, RF Torii Hunter, 3B Alberto Callaspo, LF Vernon Wells, C Hank Conger, 1B Mark Trumbo, 2B Alexi Amarista, CF Peter Bourjos, P Ervin Santana.
The White Sox lineup: LF Juan Pierre, SS Alexei Ramirez, DH Adam Dunn, 1B Paul Konerko, RF Carlos Quentin, C A.J. Pierzynski, CF Alex Rios, 2B Gordon Beckham, 3B Brent Morel, P Edwin Jackson.
-- Mike DiGiovanna
Photo: Los Angeles Angels shortstop Erick Aybar (2) steals second base in the sixth inning against the tag of Chicago White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez (10) at Angel Stadium Monday night. Credit: Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire