07/17/11 4:41 PM ET
Aybar evolving into elite shortstop
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"I'm feeling real good right now," said Aybar, who rode a nine-game hitting streak (.361) into Sunday's series finale against the Athletics. "I'm seeing the ball good and getting some good swings."
One of those swings produced a home run against Trevor Cahill in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader, a 4-2 win. It was Aybar's seventh blast of the season, exceeding by two his previous season high. His .333 average with runners in scoring position leads the team and is ninth in the American League.
"I never think about a homer," he said, grinning, "but I'll take it. He threw me a changeup, down, and I got it."
Aybar's primary tools are his legs and his powerful right arm. His quickness and hands enable him to handle anything hit his way, and his gun from the hole is one of the game's best.
Aybar leads the club with 20 steals and has been caught only twice, reflecting his development in terms of reading pitchers and getting clean breaks.
"It's good to see him playing the game the way he can," ace Jered Weaver said. "I played with the guy from Double-A up, and he's turned himself into the player he was in the Minor Leagues."
Aybar, who is batting .287 with 40 RBIs, will be matched against Texas' Elvis Andrus this week at Angel Stadium -- two of the game's elite shortstops trying to outdo each other with their athleticism. Aybar's .983 fielding percentage has him ranked third in the AL.
"He's really good," Aybar said of Andrus. "There are some great shortstops in the league. Asdrubal Cabrera, that guy is tremendous. I'm looking forward to this series. You really focus and concentrate when you compete against the best, so I always like to play against Texas."
Rodney logs first rehab appearance
OAKLAND -- Fernando Rodney, recovering from an upper back strain that has had him on the disabled list since June 9, made his first rehab appearance on Saturday with mixed results.
Pitching for the Angels' advanced Class A affiliate Inland Empire, Rodney surrendered two earned runs in one inning at San Jose. He allowed two hits and a walk while striking out two hitters.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said no decision had been made about Rodney rejoining the bullpen or continuing his rehab work in the Minor Leagues.
"He got two quick outs," Scioscia said. "He threw the ball over the plate but was struggling with putting some guys away. It was a good workout for him. He threw over 20 pitches. We'll see how he comes out of it, and what the next step is. We're talking about that now."
Takahashi shines in second game of twin bill
OAKLAND -- With the Angels still trying to fit all the pieces together to their bullpen, Hisanori Takahashi stepped forward on Saturday with his best effort since joining the club.
The man from Japan produced eight outs of strong relief in the second game of the doubleheader, which went to the A's in 10 innings after Takahashi departed. The left-hander did not allow a hit, walking a pair (one intentional) while striking out four hitters.
"This was one of the outings we envisioned when we signed Hisanori," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's given us some length, and [Saturday] was certainly the best he's been for us.
"His fastball command set up everything. He made some quality pitches to strike out [Ryan] Sweeney and [David] DeJesus."
Those two punchouts enabled Takahashi to escape a bases-loaded predicament in the seventh inning in relief of Ervin Santana. Takahashi also struck out the last two hitters in the eighth and stranded Coco Crisp in the ninth after a walk and steal.
Wells looking forward to showdown with Texas
OAKLAND -- When Vernon Wells waived his no-trade rights and accepted a move to Anaheim from Toronto over the winter, one of the first things he talked about was the opportunity to reach the postseason for the first time.
A looming second-half showdown with Texas for American League West supremacy is on the horizon for Wells and Co., with the Rangers invading Angel Stadium on Tuesday night for the first of three games. It will be a chance for Wells, who hails from Arlington, to be a thorn in the side of his hometown team.
"That's one reason I came here, to have this opportunity," said Wells, whose bat has been booming after a sluggish start in his new environment. "It's going to be a learning experience. At the same time, it's what you play this game for -- to play some meaningful baseball. That's what this game is truly about, and I'm looking forward to it."
One of Wells' best friends is Michael Young, the face of the Rangers for a decade.
"It's always good to see him," Wells said. "He's a special player and person."
But it's all business when the first pitch is delivered, Wells was quick to add.
"We're playing good baseball," he said. "We're scoring runs when we need to, and the pitching is doing what they've done all year. It's especially important that we continue playing good defense now. You don't want to give a team like Texas, with all those weapons, any favors."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.