Aybar, Abreu out for precaution
Shortstop sits with stiffness in arm; outfielder a late scratch
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels' lineup against the Cubs on Sunday was about as close to full strength as it's been all spring.
Seven expected regulars -- Howard Kendrick, Torii Hunter, Hideki Matsui, Kendry Morales, Juan Rivera, Mike Napoli and Brandon Wood -- were in the lineup, meaning the only two names missing were Bobby Abreu and Erick Aybar.
Abreu was simply a late scratch because of tightness in his side, and Aybar is expected to return on Monday against the Dodgers after sitting out the past few games because of stiffness in his right arm.
"He's going to be in our drills this morning, and took ground balls yesterday to work on his feet," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Aybar. "I think if this was a regular-season game he'd play, but there's no sense in having to do it at this stage."
Scioscia is hopeful Aybar can return quickly and continue to work on his plate discipline, as the 26-year-old shortstop is expected to be the club's leadoff hitter this season.
But Aybar has big shoes to fill as former offensive catalyst Chone Figgins -- now with the division-rival Mariners -- led the American League in walks last season and saw the most pitches in all of baseball as well.
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Aybar still has some work to do in those areas as he led the Angels with a .312 batting average last year, but he drew just 30 walks while seeing the second-fewest pitches out of any Angels regular with 3.47 pitches per plate appearance, which is quite a bit low compared to the league average of 3.84.
"There are some things he might not bring that Figgy brought," Scioscia said. "Figgy developed the ability to work deep into counts, and I think Erick will and he might not be ready for it April 5, but what he did last year sets up well for this year."
But Scioscia feels that with more playing time the four-year veteran can add the ability to see more pitches and work the count as the season goes along, which will only make the career .285 hitter even more valuable.
"If what he does this year is what he did last year, he'll set the table and score a lot of runs," Scioscia said. "But I do think there is more in him like working deeper counts and hitting with two strikes. I think that's going to develop over the course of time with experience."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.