ANAHEIM -- Elvis Andrus of the Rangers and the Angels' Erick Aybar share more than initials. They're two of a kind at shortstop. Both are young, athletic, dynamic game-changers destined to be American League West rivals -- and share All-Star Game clubhouses -- for years to come.
"I really like to watch him play," Andrus, who turns 23 next month, said of Aybar, 27. "He's exciting. And he's smart. He can do it all -- especially this year. He's hitting for power, consistent, always having fun. I like it when he makes a great play -- except when it's on me.
"You always like to compete against guys like that. He wants to win, and so do I."
The show the dueling acrobats put on is frequently something to behold, Andrus and Aybar trying to outdo each other with their defensive gymnastics while jump-starting their offenses with multiple talents.
At this stage, Aybar has one edge with his emerging power: seven homers, two more than his previous career high, to three by Andrus. Aybar is slugging .441 compared with .345 by Andrus. Aybar is hitting .287, Andrus .280.
Both have impressive success rates on the bases. Andrus has 28 steals in 32 attempts, while Aybar is 20-for-24. Defensively? Too close to call and a matter of taste. Andrus is smoother, Aybar more electric.
"He's really good," Aybar, from the Dominican Republic, said of his Venezuelan rival. "It's a lot of fun to play against a guy like that. You really have to concentrate and focus."
In a flash, Trout's speed can spark Angels
ANAHEIM -- Plenty of descriptors can aptly categorize Mike Trout's speed: explosive, blazing, game-changing.
Add "inning-extending" to the list.
The 19-year-old's one-out infield RBI single in Wednesday night's six-run sixth inning not only cut the Rangers' lead to 8-5, but it extended the inning and changed the complexion of the game, which the Angels won, 9-8. Had Trout not beaten out the throw to first by Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus, Erick Aybar's ensuing at-bat -- a double that scored Trout -- would have came with two outs and no men on base.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Trout was timed at 3.82 seconds out of the batter's box to first base on the play. For a right-handed hitter, that is "as good as you're going to see."
"It's huge," Scioscia said. "We would have scored the run anyway. But it led to a lot bigger things in that inning."
"When a ball is hit to Andrus, you're usually out. It doesn't matter if it's in the hole or whatever, he's good," he said. "For him [Trout] to beat that out, it was a big hit."
The Halos plated four more runs in what proved the game-winning frame.
Trout entered Thursday's game hitting .148 (4-for-27) through his first eight career Major League games and has recorded one double, two RBIs, and three walks.
Angels to activate Rodney from DL on Friday
ANAHEIM -- The Angels will activate reliever Fernando Rodney from the disabled list before Friday's series opener in Baltimore and option fellow reliever Trevor Bell to Triple-A Salt Lake.
Rodney threw one perfect inning with a strikeout, recording a hold during a rehab assignment Wednesday with Class A Inland Empire. A strained upper back shelved the 34-year-old righty on June 13, and he hasn't pitched for the Halos since June 8.
His return should be a welcome addition to a bullpen seeking middle-relief answers. Rodney compiled a 4.09 ERA in 22 innings for the Angels before he was injured.
Bell has a 3.24 ERA in 25 innings this year but has made only four appearances for the Angels in the last 30 days.
Wells treats Project HOPE children to game
ANAHEIM -- Angels outfielder Vernon Wells and his wife, Charlene, purchased five suites for children from Orange's Project HOPE School to attend Thursday's game.
Project HOPE -- Homeless Outreach Program in Education -- is a county-run school aimed at assisting children without permanent homes in their transition into the mainstream education system.
Wells first learned about the Project HOPE through a TV documentary.
"We want to get involved with things locally since we're here now," he said. "It's important for us to give back to where we play."
Helping out with the HOPE program is a perfect cause for Wells to help. In 2009 he founded the Perfect 10 Foundation, a non-profit organization designed to support and protect homeless children and single mothers. Its programs include the Redemption House, which aids homeless expectant mothers in terms of education and providing for their unborn child, and the Hope House, a stable living environment that helps homeless mothers with children under 14 on their way to self-sufficiency.
"It's [Project HOPE] something that fits into what we're doing with our foundation," Wells said. " ... It's a great program. Unfortunately a lot of these kids have to come into this world under harsh circumstances. It's great what they're doing and it's a program that we really want to be involved with the rest of the time that we're here."