When the Angels traded Orlando Cabrera to the White Sox in the offseason, Erick Aybar became an attractive in-house candidate to take over at shortstop and, so far, he has fulfilled the club's expectations with strong defense and timely hitting. Aybar, currently batting .306 with five doubles and five stolen bases, recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com (with assistance from interpreter Jose Mota):
05/06/2008 12:50 PM ET
Q&A with the Angels' Erick Aybar
Shortstop has taken advantage of void left by offseason trade
By Jeff Moeller / MLBPLAYERS.com
MLBPLAYERS.com: Do you feel any different this season compared to last season or the season before?
Aybar: Playing every day makes a big difference. I feel different, because you come into the clubhouse every day knowing you are going to play every day. Playing every day helps you to improve your game. That is exactly how I feel -- I'm getting better every day.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Did you come into Spring Training this year expecting to make the team as opposed to hoping to make the team?
Aybar: I knew I was going to make the team, but I didn't know if I would be the team's everyday shortstop. That didn't change my approach, though, from working hard every day. I spent the time preparing to do well not only in Spring Training but during the season as well.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What was the first thing that went through your mind when you heard the news that Orlando Cabrera got traded?
Aybar: My mentality was that I knew my chance was going to come. When he got traded I knew the opportunity would be there. It was communicated to me to keep playing well in winter ball and to come into Spring Training and think about not just taking over for Cabrera, but to work myself into the system here. I'm about fitting into the Mike Scioscia mold, and that is to catch the ball and work hard.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Are you a better defensive player at shortstop, third base or second base?
Aybar: Shortstop. That's the position I've played the most. Ever since I was young, I've played the most at short. At the other positions, I feel like I can make the routine plays. I also feel like I can anticipate well and be prepared. Shortstop, though, is the position I love. I've been able to get better and better at that position through hard work and because it's the position I love.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How much does it help you that you can switch-hit?
Aybar: It's a tremendous feeling to know that, when you have a right-hander on the mound, you can hit left-handed and vice versa. It is great to know that, when the lineup changes, you can still be a part of it. Mike has used some different lineups, and I have hit in some different spots. It's my advantage that I have the chance to hit regardless of who is on the mound. During the game, you have to make the mental adjustment that a different pitcher is coming in, and you yourself might have to change.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Scioscia has called you a dynamic and explosive fielder. How does that make you feel?
Aybar: I appreciate the confidence he has given me. I continue to thank God and ask him that I continue to win (Scioscia's) confidence, because he is a great teacher and a great manager. It's sort of overwhelming because he knows so much about baseball.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What do you think is your greatest strength as a baseball player?
Aybar: I put 100 percent in everything I do. Whether it is the glove or the bat or when it comes to winning, which is very important to me.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What do you like best about Maicer Izturis?
Aybar: We complement each other. We are two guys who are little, but we get on base. We are always thinking about how we can help the team, especially with the glove.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You are from the same hometown in the Domincan Republic as your teammate Vladimir Guerrero. How popular is he in Bani?
Aybar: Everybody loves Vladdy. He has a big smile at all times. Everything he has done back home has been great. He takes care of the kids with baseball equipment. He is adored not only in Bani but throughout the Dominican Republic. He is so humble, and he takes care of so many people in need.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How does your family and how do your friends back in the Dominican Republic follow your career here?
Aybar: Television. They come here for a few months, and then they go back for a few months. But through the TV, newspaper and Internet -- anything they can get their hands on -- they are able to follow me.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.