4/5/2013 6:15 P.M. ET
Fresh off Classic crown, Aybar out to own two-spot
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Erick Aybar, who already has celebrated a championship this season thanks to the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic title, apparently plans to put a stranglehold on the No. 2 spot in the lineup, between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
Aybar, deferring to shortstop Jose Reyes, served as the D.R.'s primary designated hitter in its perfect eight-game run to the Classic crown. He delivered several clutch hits batting second between Reyes and Robinson Cano, and those pressure at-bats couldn't have hurt his confidence heading into the season.
"It was a great experience, playing for that team with those guys," Aybar said. "It felt great. Now I'm ready to help this team win."
The only question about him as a No. 2 hitter is his plate discipline and selectivity. He has great speed and is one of the game's best bunters.
Hitting exclusively from the left side against the Reds' right-handers, Aybar went 5-for-14 in the three games in Cincinnati, scoring twice. He went 3-for-4 with a double in Thursday's 5-4 loss but scored only once.
"Aybar had a terrific game [on Thursday]," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Unfortunately, we couldn't roll that into offense. We'll see where it goes [with the No. 2 slot]. Right now we've got to let those guys get settled."
Trout went 4-for-13 with one walk in the three games. The thumpers behind Trout and Aybar -- Pujols and Josh Hamilton -- were a combined 2-for-23 in the series. They drove in two runs apiece.
Bourjos back in his familiar role vs. Rangers
ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the first time this season, the Angels will have their regular outfield intact as they open a big weekend series with their American League West rivals, the Rangers. Peter Bourjos, forced to the bench in the opening series in Cincinnati by the absence of a designated hitter, will be in center field, with Mike Trout moving to left and Josh Hamilton -- the central focus of the series -- in right against his former teammates.
Bourjos thought it was odd to start the season on the bench.
"I looked at the schedule when it came out and thought, 'Oh, shoot, I'm going to have to wait three days to play.'" Bourjos said
Bourjos' good buddy, Mark Trumbo, was in left field against the Reds. The slugger is in the DH role, hitting fifth, against Rangers lefty Derek Holland. Bourjos, who had an excellent spring, hits ninth, giving the Angels the effect of dual leadoff men with Trout.
Bourjos' 2012 season was a disappointment, coming on the heels of a productive 2011, and he was reduced primarily to backup duties with Trout's emergence in center. One of the game's fastest players and premier defenders, Bourjos is confident he can return to his 2011 level -- .271 average. 26 doubles, 11 triples, 12 homers. 22 steals -- and surpass it with steady playing time.
As a late-game replacement, he tripled in his first at-bat in Cincinnati, and went 1-for-2 in the series.
"I'm excited, more just about being able to play more," Bourjos said. "The more playing time, the better my numbers will be, and I'll have a chance to help the team win. Last year my role, coming in late for defense, was important, but it was limited. This is a bigger role, and I want to take advantage of it."
Bourjos has made more than his share of highlight-reel catches, including one here in April 2011 that stands out. With Jered Weaver protecting a two-run lead in the seventh inning, Bourjos was off with the crack of David Murphy's bat, leaping high and banging against the wall to take away extra bases -- and perhaps a home run. Weaver later called it "awesome, as good as it gets."
Bourjos fondly remembers it as "one of my favorites, because of the game circumstances. Off the bat, I didn't think I'd get there, and I hit the wall pretty hard with my back."
Hamilton receives expected reception in Texas
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Boos, as anticipated, greeted Josh Hamilton as he made his first plate appearance against the Rangers, his former club, in an Angels uniform.
Leading off the second inning, wearing his familiar No. 32, Hamilton looked at a strike from Derek Holland, bringing cheers from the crowd. The cheers grew louder as he flailed at a slider, missing. After he took a ball, the fans roared -- intermixed with boos -- as he swung through another slider and struck out.
Hamilton went into the game hitting .083 after collecting one single in the team's first three games in Cincinnati.
His second at-bat, in the fourth inning, was a repeat of the first. He again fell behind, 0-2, before swinging through a pitch. Once again a roar went up from the big crowd attending the Rangers' home opener. The score was tied at 1.
Hamilton, who signed a five-year, $125 million free-agent deal with the Angels, said before the game that he expected the reaction to be unpleasant. A few fans cheered and held signs of support, but more prevalent were the boos.
Hamilton secure in relationship with new teammates
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Josh Hamilton said he is happy to be back home, sleeping in his own bed, surrounded by his family. How his return to Rangers Ballpark, with the expectation of some booing from his former fans, would remain to be seen. But one thing the Angels' new right fielder and cleanup man is secure about is his relationship with his new teammates.
Asked how long it took him to feel he could be himself with the Angels, Hamilton said, "About a day. Good group of guys. They got rid of some guys and brought new guys in. [They have] young guys coming up. But it just reminds me a lot of the Texas clubhouse, with guys just wearing each other out with every nationality, from pitchers to position players.
"There's none of that off in the corner-type of things. It's really exciting. Hopefully, I can influence that excitement in the dugout."
Hamilton's comfort level has been apparent in his open manner in the clubhouse and upbeat attitude. He'd like to emulate a former Texas teammate in that regard.
"Adrian Beltre is the most entertaining player I've ever played with," Hamilton said. "I'll continue to say that. Just the intensity and the willingness to be outspoken from Spring Training day one until the end of the season is something I admire about him."
• In 2012 the Rangers (6.0) and Angels (5.8) combined for the second-most runs in any season series. Only the Indians (6.3) vs. Royals (5.7) combined for more.
• Minor League catcher Carlos Ramirez has been handed a 50-game suspension without pay for a second violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Ramirez is on the roster of the Double-A Arkansas Travelers of the Texas League. A 25-year-old native of Tucson, taken in the eighth round of the 2009 Draft, Ramirez hit .204 for Arkansas in 85 games last year with two homers and 25 RBIs. He attended Arizona State. He is a .269 hitter in 291 Minor League games.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.