ANAHEIM -- As Rich Thompson settles into his role in the Angels bullpen this season, the righty reliever has found a new sense of purpose.
After throwing a total of 19 2/3 innings all of last season, Thompson had already tossed 19 innings this season entering Monday and had recorded 22 strikeouts, which led American League relievers.
"It is nice to be pitching more often and feeling I belong and having ownership with what I do," Thompson said. "I have just tried to take it one step at a time and pitch my pitch."
Fanning 20 batters in his last 12 1/3 innings pitched, Thompson said his secret has just been getting ahead of hitters.
Before Monday's game against the White Sox, Thompson had given up just four runs on 14 hits, for a 1.89 ERA.
"I have felt the pressure of trying to do too much and really looking over my shoulder in the past, and that is hard to do," Thompson said. "Last year, I realized I have to take ownership and I've tried to do that this year."
Leading off, Aybar is at the top of his game
ANAHEIM -- Enjoying seeing Erick Aybar at the top of his lineup this season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia believes the shortstop has finally succeeded in the role because of his experience from previous seasons.
"He is better suited now for this opportunity," Scioscia said. "Getting experience, I think it helped him to be a little better prepared for it this year."
Leading Major League shortstops in average, Aybar entered Monday batting .356 with nine RBIs, eight extra-base hits and eight stolen bases this season.
He even was riding a seven-game hit streak, in which he was batting .406 (13-for-32). This season, Aybar was hitting .333 against left-handers and .364 against right-handers, even after a stint on the disabled list in April because of left oblique soreness.
"He feels good at the batter's box and is using the whole field," Scioscia said. "That is why his numbers are reflecting it."
Yet, it isn't just the offensive side of the ball where Aybar has improved. He's also become more sound at shortstop.
Tallying only one error in 21 games this season, Aybar has a .991 fielding percentage.
"He is very comfortable defensively," Scioscia said. "Turning the double play and coming across the bag, he is the best in baseball at it. This year, he is doing the little things easier."
Prankster Hunter expects Scioscia payback
ANAHEIM -- A day after dumping a cooler full of ice water on Angels manager Mike Scioscia in celebration of his 1,000th win as a manger, Torii Hunter knows he won't be able to relax until Scioscia gets revenge.
To combat this problem, Hunter said he'll receive support from players to help him out if they see Scioscia coming. The short list includes: Alexi Amarista, Peter Bourjos and Mark Trumbo.
"He walked past my locker today with a grumpy face and just stared at me like he wants to get me back, Hunter said on Monday.
"I hired a couple of guys, so if they see him coming, they'll just scream. Amarista, he'll never see him coming. Bourjos is quick, he'll tell me before it happens. Trumbo is like Thor -- he'll be my strong guy and will lay the hammer down before he gets too close to me."
Hunter believes that Scioscia's prank will be something different and probably worse.
Just before Monday's game against the Chicago White Sox, Scioscia said Hunter better watch his back in Spring Training.
"He'll probably wait until Spring Training. He doesn't want to hurt me during the season, but Spring Training I have time to heal," Hunter said. "He has been around the game so long, you really don't want to mess with a guy like that. I really better watch my back."
Go to Big A on Tuesday, help make history
ANAHEIM -- The Angels will attempt to set another record Tuesday night at Angel Stadium.
While Angels manager Mike Scioscia became just the 56th manager to reach 1,000 wins and just the 23rd to do so with one team Sunday, the Angels on Tuesday will attempt to break the Guinness world record for the "largest gathering of people wearing costume masks."
All fans in attendance for Tuesday's game against the Chicago White Sox will receive a complimentary Angels wrestling mask courtesy of Cacique U.S.A.
Marketing associate John Rozak came up with the idea of the wrestling masks a few years ago, and was finally able to get the idea accomplished this season.
"We are constantly looking for ways to connect and engage with our great fan base," vice president of sales & marketing, Robert Alvarado said. "Setting another world record to complement last season's blanket event will be a unique and memorable experience for our fans, and another memory during our 50th anniversary."
Fans will be prompted to wear their red Angels wrestling masks for 10 consecutive minutes. After completion, a Guinness World Records adjudicator will officially certify the record, and later in the game, Guinness World Records will hold a short ceremony to recognize the record-breaking attempt.
The second Guinness world record attempt by the organization, the Angels first tried to set the record for the "largest gathering of people wearing blankets" in 2010. The current record for the largest gathering of people wearing costume masks is 250.
After his 1,000th victory, Scioscia said he heard from countless members of family and friends. "It really felt good to get a lot of messages from friends across the country, in the baseball world and family," said Scioscia. ... Giving Howard Kendrick a day off at second base on Monday, Scioscia shuffled the Angels lineup, putting Amarista in the eight-spot and at second base, while third baseman Alberto Callaspo batted cleanup. ... Deciding to be a prankster for the second day in a row, Hunter wore a large red sun hat as the Angels did stretching and warmup drills before Monday's game. The sun hats were given away as a promotion on Mother's Day.
Quinn Roberts is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.