Aybar searching for groove atop lineup

Aybar searching for groove atop lineup

SEATTLE -- Erick Aybar has gotten the walks expected of him as a leadoff hitter, but he might be too patient for his own good.

Aybar leads the Angels with 16 free passes and he added a career-high three on Friday night against the Mariners, but his .241 batting average and .657 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) aren't up to snuff with expectations, especially for a player who hit .312 last season.

He also has 22 strikeouts, which Scioscia believes are related to Aybar trying to draw more walks.

"I definitely think some of the strikeouts have been a byproduct of trying to work counts and force counts where he could have maybe put a ball in play early in the count, and he ends up striking out," Scioscia said. "I think that's what happens to a lot of guys who are up there and have to work counts. You're going to get into deeper counts a lot, and sometimes you're going to draw more walks and sometimes it's going to create situations with more strikeouts."

Scioscia added that he still thinks Aybar has performed better than his numbers show, and he said he's excited to see if Aybar can get the hits to match his walks and spark the Angels' lineup.

The man he's replacing atop the order, Seattle's Chone Figgins, has had even less success at the plate as the Mariners' No. 2 hitter. Figgins is hitting .198, though he also leads his team in walks with 22.

Aybar said he learned the patient approach while playing alongside Figgins.

"As the leadoff man, you have to work counts," Aybar said. "That's what I'm doing right now. I'm still the same person, staying aggressive with my swings, but right now I feel comfortable taking some pitches.

"I would watch Figgins play, and I like how he plays the game. He took walks and got hits, the things a leadoff man should."