ANAHEIM -- Angels shortstop Erick Aybar, riding a season-long seven-game hitting streak and batting .417 over his last 10 games heading into Friday's opener with the Dodgers, has put his horrid start to the season behind him and has essentially chalked it all up to normalcy."I always start slow; it's always been like that, and then I just keep getting better and better as the season goes on," Aybar said in Spanish. "Thankfully I've been doing that lately." Yeah, but he's never really started off this slow. "No, never this slow," Aybar agreed. "But I wasn't frustrated because I was actually feeling good [at the plate]. Things weren't going the way I wanted them to, but I just kept being the same person. I would just come in, watch my videos and take that mentality into the game." Aybar has recently quieted his stance and stride from the left side of the plate, which he believes has helped him raise his batting average from .215 on June 9 to the current .245 mark, which represents the highest it's been since April 24. Defensively, he's tied with the Rangers' Elvis Andrus and the Royals' Alcides Escobar for most errors among American League shortstops, but he hasn't committed one over his last 12 games. In short, he's starting to look a lot more like the guy the Angels thought they had signed to a four-year, $35 million extension in April -- the one who has put up a .280/.327/.391 slash line the last three years and won a Gold Glove in 2011. "He's a better offensive player than he's shown for probably the first two months of the season, and we need him to contribute and get some of that action going from down below to the lineup right now as we make that turnaround to the top of the order," said manager Mike Scioscia, who has been hitting Aybar mostly in the Nos. 7 and 8 spots. "Hitting where he is now, it's important because he's connected with Mike Trout, and obviously we've seen what Mike has been doing."
Takahashi exits with stiff hip against Dodgers
ANAHEIM -- Angels reliever Hisanori Takahashi left Friday night's 8-5 win over the Dodgers with stiffness in his right hip, but the veteran left-hander doesn't believe it'll put him on the shelf for any amount of time.Takahashi pitched a scoreless sixth inning to preserve the Angels' lead, then stiffened up while warming for the seventh and came right out of the game. "Taka had been up real early; I think in the second inning he was [warming up in the bullpen]," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had been up and down, and when he finally pitched in the sixth, the bottom of the sixth was a long inning. ... As that inning went on, and he went out to get his warm-ups, he just was a little bit stiff on his right side, and enough was enough. We just didn't want to stretch him tonight." The 37-year-old Takahashi has a 4.32 ERA in 25 innings this year.
Williams cleared to return to routine
ANAHEIM -- Jerome Williams is now ready to move on from his bout with breathing troubles.Four days after landing in the hospital due to passing out from a shortness of breath following a rough start against the Giants on Monday night, then staying overnight at UC Irvine Medical Center and undergoing an assortment of tests, Williams has been cleared for full baseball activities. He has to use a blood-pressure monitor for 24 hours, and he'll have to utilize his asthma inhaler more frequently, but all tests checked out OK and doctors believe he should be fine going forward. Williams, who was placed on the disabled list Tuesday, feels he might've overreacted to a normal asthma attack, which he hadn't experienced since he was a toddler. "For me, it's all about not panicking about it," the 30-year-old right-hander said Friday before the Angels opened a series with the Dodgers. "Just like I was when I was growing up. Be relaxed and don't panic about it. Take your deep breaths in and stay calm." Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Williams will throw a bullpen session "in the next couple of days" and that there are no restrictions on him, meaning he can work his way back to being a starter when he is able to come off the DL on July 4. Whether that ends up being the case remains to be seen. Taking the place of Williams on the staff is Garrett Richards, who has given up just two earned runs in 21 innings. With Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and C.J. Wilson not going anywhere, and Ervin Santana bouncing back in a big way with a one-hit shutout in his last start, Scioscia could have an interesting decision to make with regards to Williams (out of options) and Richards (able to be sent back down) in a couple of weeks. For now, the Angels have the benefit of time. They had an off-day on Thursday, will get another on Monday and have the All-Star break a little more than two weeks away. "We're going to take it one step at a time with Jerome," Scioscia said. "I think there's a period right now to make sure he's back out there, get him into baseball activities and get him feeling good, and then we'll progress as he can tolerate."
Angels benefit from extra rest
ANAHEIM -- Though pitchers generally consider extra rest between starts a hindrance that takes them out of their routine, those in the Angels' rotations should reconsider that notion."You just can't prepare for it," C.J. Wilson said. "There's no point in Spring Training where they're like, 'Oh, we're going to get ready for six days.' So it's just how you're programmed. It's not something you do all the time, and you just kind of get out of your comfort zone a little bit or get out of your routine." With their off-day on Thursday and upcoming one on Monday, each of the Angels' starters will be pitching on six days' rest, compared to the usual four or five days. But for every Angels starter except Dan Haren, that extra day has led to better results. Saturday's starter Ervin Santana has a 3.87 ERA in 22 starts with six days' rest, compared to a 4.44 ERA in 118 starts after four days off and a 4.18 in 76 starts after five days. Wilson has a 2.91 ERA in 10 starts on six days' rest, a 3.21 ERA in 53 starts on four days' rest and a 4.18 ERA in 76 starts on five days' rest. Jered Weaver has a 2.57 ERA in 25 starts on six days' rest, a 3.05 in 98 starts on four days' rest and a 3.74 ERA in 64 starts on five days' rest. Haren is the only exception, with a 5.17 ERA in 24 starts on six days' rest following his five-inning, five-run outing on Friday. He has a 3.40 ERA in 174 starts on four days' rest and a 3.83 ERA in 72 starts on five days' rest. Whether the starters feel the extra day is a positive, pitching coach Mike Butcher said the extra rest, however short it may be, will help the staff out in the long run. After 70 games in 2012, the Angels' starters have the most innings pitched (440 2/3) in the American League. "As far as body recovery, it's going to help 100 percent," Butcher said. "Your body does recover more. When you train your body to pitch every fifth day, you might not feel the same as you usually do with that extra rest, but over the long haul of the season, it actually helps out quite a bit."
Arizona State baseball player Cory Hahn, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a game on Feb. 20, 2011, was on the field during batting practice on Friday and watched the series opener against the Dodgers from a suite.
In just his third game with the Sun Devils, Hahn fractured the C-5 vertebra in his spine while sliding head-first into a fielder's leg at second base.
Hahn, 20, who was raised in Orange County and attended Santa Ana Mater Dei High, grew up an Angels fan. He spent some time at Dodgers Spring Training in March and has developed a relationship with Angels manager Mike Scioscia and a few Angels players.
Catcher Chris Iannetta, who has been on the disabled list since May 10 while recovering from wrist surgery, will be cleared to restart his throwing program on Saturday, Scioscia said.
Iannetta suffered tightness in his forearm about two weeks ago when trying to prepare for a rehab assignment and has been working strictly on hitting since. He needs to long toss up to a few hundred feet and throw to bases before he can go for a rehab assignment.
"Hopefully we'll see some progress this week and get a better idea of when he's going to go out there for a rehab assignment," Scioscia said.
Angels relievers Scott Downs and Ernesto Frieri have the best combined ERA out of any two teammate relievers in the Major Leagues with a minimum of 20 innings pitched per player. In a combined 54 2/3 innings, the pair has surrendered just four runs for a 0.66 ERA.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Joe McIntyre is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.