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ANGELS FYI

Angels' Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins are Gold Glove candidates

Shortstop and third baseman have been making dazzling plays in the field.

August 21, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

CLEVELAND — Shortstop Erick Aybar and third baseman Chone Figgins have emerged as leading candidates at their positions to win Gold Glove Awards this season.

If they do, they would become the first left-side-infield teammates to win American League Gold Gloves since Cleveland shortstop Omar Vizquel and third baseman Travis Fryman in 2000.

"There is not a third baseman in our league playing at a higher level than Figgy right now," Manager Mike Scioscia said.

Does the same hold true for the Angels shortstop?

"Yes," Scioscia said.

Aybar is tied with the Yankees' Derek Jeter for second in the league with a .986 fielding percentage. His primary competition will come from Jeter and Toronto's Marco Scutaro, who leads the league with a .992 fielding percentage.

But neither Jeter nor Scutaro possesses the range, quickness or throwing arm of Aybar, who displayed all three Saturday night in Baltimore, when he went deep into the hole, several feet onto the outfield grass, to snag Brian Roberts' grounder and made a long, off-balance throw to first to retire the speedy leadoff hitter.

Asked who else would have made that play, Scioscia said, "In our league? In the National League? The Japanese League? The Mexican League? No one.

"Ozzie Smith could have made it. And maybe Garry Templeton because of his arm."

Figgins, a former utility player who didn't begin playing third base regularly until 2007, has shown excellent range to his left and right, and he has always had a strong and accurate throwing arm.

He made another superb play Wednesday night in Cleveland, snagging Kelly Shoppach's one-hop smash to his right and making a long throw to first to rob Shoppach of a run-scoring double.

"We see that left-side range every day," Scioscia said. "Those two have the potential to be real difference-makers on defense."

Figgins ranks sixth in the AL with a .964 fielding percentage, but he still figures to challenge Tampa Bay's Evan Longoria, Detroit's Brandon Inge and Seattle's Adrian Beltre for the Gold Glove.

Managers and coaches vote for the awards, but they are not allowed to vote for their own players.

"It would be great to win," Figgins said.

"It would prove to myself that I know I can do it and show kids that if you put in the work and you believe you can play the position, you can do it."

Not perfect

As good as Aybar has been defensively, he did commit a first-inning error Thursday night that ended the Angels' string of 59 consecutive innings -- and six games -- without an error.

However, the miscue came on a play on which Aybar ranged far behind the second-base bag to glove Shin Soo Choo's grounder, spun around and made an off-balance throw that got by first baseman Kendry Morales.

The play was ruled a single, and Aybar was charged with an error because Choo took second on the overthrow. In the fourth, Aybar ranged far behind the second-base bag again for Jhonny Peralta's grounder and threw Peralta out at first.

Clutch cargo

In 35 games through Wednesday, the Angels hit .373 with runners in scoring position to increase their major league-leading average with runners in scoring position to .311.

According to STATS LLC, the best team average with runners in scoring position in the last 35 years was .309 by the Cleveland Indians in 1999.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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