ARLINGTON -- Slowly but surely, Jordan Walden seems to be getting better on the mound -- and, thusly, so is his role.
Walden, who went from closing to temporary mopup duty after a blown save on April 26, pitched a clean seventh inning against the Rangers on Saturday, preserving the two-run lead the Angels eventually won by. The 24-year-old right-hander, who mainly needed to work on his slider command, now hasn't given up a hit in either of his last three outings, walking just one and striking out two in that 2 2/3-innings span.
With LaTroy Hawkins nursing a broken pinkie, Walden has returned to the holding-leads section of manager Mike Scioscia's bullpen, joining Ernesto Frieri (seemingly the setup man) and lefty Scott Downs (who replaced him in the ninth).
Can Walden reclaim the closer's role if he keeps pitching this way?
"If that evolves, I think we're better off in the long run that way," Scioscia said. "But the thing is, you're not just looking at the last three outs, you're really looking at the last six, seven, eight outs. If you can get some depth there to have some options and be able to match up, it gives you stronger looks at times. But we're going to let it go where it goes. I don't think we need to force anything right now."
Aybar, Hatcher work on fixing inconsistency
ARLINGTON -- Lost amid the head-scratching struggles of the Angels' new first baseman, Albert Pujols, has been the year-long funk of their recently extended shortstop, Erick Aybar, who entered Sunday's series finale against the Rangers batting .200 with a .227 on-base percentage and one stolen base in 32 games.
Aybar had the day off against righty Neftali Feliz on Mother's Day -- as did the similarly struggling Torii Hunter -- but he and hitting coach Mickey Hatcher believe they've figured something out that can get him right at the plate.
Well, from one side, at least.
In looking at tape recently, the Angels noticed the switch-hitting Aybar's stride has been different from the left side of the plate. As a timing mechanism, Aybar usually taps his right foot once, then strides toward the pitch. Recently, though, an extra tap has been subconsciously incorporated, which may be throwing off his timing.
"He's got like a two-step thing going at the plate, and we want to correct that right now," Hatcher said. "He had a good session in the cage, so we'll see."
Hatcher wants Aybar to get more fluid with his stride, and Aybar believes that could be all it takes to get him going again.
"Of course," he said in Spanish. "I'm seeing the ball well, putting good swings and doing everything else right. ... When you know you're not swinging at bad pitches, it's because something else is wrong. I was swinging at good pitches and kept popping the ball up, and not getting my hands out. But today I did some work in the cage and everything went well."
Aybar, signed to a four-year, $35 million extension in mid-April, began the year batting leadoff, but has mostly hit eighth over the last three weeks, with the young Mike Trout taking over the table-setting duties since his April 28 callup.
Aybar batted .280 with a .327 on-base percentage over the last three years, but has struggled from both sides of the plate in 2012, posting a .225 on-base percentage from the left and a .231 on-base percentage from the right.
"When you know you can do more than you're doing, you're like, 'Wow, what's going on?'" Aybar said. "I'm not that kind of player. But, hey, it's only a month of baseball. There's more than four months left. You just have to adjust."
Angels add a touch of pink on Mother's Day
ARLINGTON -- It's perhaps the one day out of the year when jocks will happily rock hot pink.
On Sunday, members of the Angels and Rangers gladly joined the rest of Major League Baseball by suiting up with pink wristbands, Phiten bracelets and -- on some occasions -- Louisville Sluggers in honor of Mother's Day. Also, the "T" behind the batter's box at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was painted pink, the lineup cards in both dugouts were pink, and Angels slugger Mark Trumbo even passed out some pink Oakley frames to mark the occasion.
"I like it," Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos said of all the pink. "I think it's good. I mean, my mom was a huge part of my life growing up. She took me to soccer games, football games, baseball games. My dad [a Major League scout] traveled so much, and I spent a lot of time with her."
In 2006, MLB began the tradition of utilizing pink on Mother's Day, in celebration of the holiday and, more specifically, for breast-cancer awareness.
"It's an honor," Angels shortstop Erick Aybar said in Spanish about wearing pink on Mother's Day. "It's a day to remember the person who's with you in good and bad times. To me, she's everything. It's a gift from God to celebrate a day like this."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.