Angels shortstops making choice tough
Izturis, Aybar both putting on strong showing in Cactus League
TEMPE, Ariz. -- They're so intertwined in Angels camp this spring, they might as well answer to Erick Maicer Aybar Izturis.Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis are friends who want the same thing: the shortstop role on manager Mike Scioscia's lineup card. Aybar and Izturis both have had exceptional Cactus League performances, doing their best to justify the faith management placed in their talents when it shipped Gold Glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox in November for starting pitcher Jon Garland. "It's the first time I've had this opportunity," Izturis, a soft-spoken Venezuelan, said as he sat quietly at his locker at Tempe Diablo Stadium. "I'm focused. I don't try to do too much. Like last year, I want to be consistent." Izturis is known as the steadier, more reliable defender, Aybar the more physically gifted, with superior range and a howitzer of an arm. Neither shortstop had committed an error through 22 Cactus League games entering play Thursday. "They're both playing great baseball right now," Scioscia said. "They're playing other positions, too. We'll wait and see how this plays out and make a decision when the time comes." That would be March 31, in Minnesota, when the Angels launch their American League West title defense. Izturis, 27, and Aybar, 24, are running so close, Scioscia might need a photo at the finish line to declare a winner. If there's an edge, it would appear to be found in Izturis' bat. Aybar, however, has shown unexpected power this spring. His two-run homer against the Giants on Thursday was his third in Cactus League play. He's batting .289 with a .372 on-base percentage and a .632 slugging percentage. Izturis, appearing in 11 games, was batting .400, slugging .600 and and getting on base at a .471 clip. Embarking on his fourth season with the Angels after arriving with Juan Rivera from the Nationals in exchange for Jose Guillen following the 2004 season, Izturis has batted .293 and .289 the past two seasons. The Angels had no better clutch hitter in 2008. In 96 at-bats with runners in scoring position, Izturis batted .406, driving home 46 runs, and is a .340 career hitter with runners at second and/or third. He was so productive he batted fifth for a chunk of the season. Hainley Statia, five years younger than Izturis, has made a study of Maicer's game and habits as he attempts to move up the organizational ladder at shortstop.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.