Angels infielder Howie Kendrick has been a contributor in the team's lineup since his promotion to the big leagues in mid-season 2006. But the team has been waiting for him to become the complete offensive player it thinks he can be.
Early indications this season are that his time might have come.
After a torrid spring in which Kendrick seemed to hit everything hard, the second baseman is off to a hot start. Through the first six games, Kendrick is batting .417 (10-for-24) with five extra-base hits (a double, a triple and three home runs) and seven runs.
"It just comes down to having more at-bats and more playing time," said Kendrick who set career highs in several categories last season even while slumping to a career-low .279 batting average. "You understand the game more the more games you play. You get in certain situations and you don't really panic as much.
"I would say I'm a better player than I was last year."
Manager Mike Scioscia had planned to bat Kendrick sixth this season, add some length to the Angels' lineup behind an anticipated middle group of Torii Hunter, Kendrys Morales and Vernon Wells. With Morales still unavailable due to his slow recovery from last year's broken ankle, Scioscia had to rethink his lineup. Bobby Abreu moved down from No. 2 to No. 3, and Scioscia turned to Kendrick in a "table-setting role" as the No. 2 hitter.
The Angels tried this once before. In 2009, Kendrick started the season batting second but was a poor fit, slumped badly and wound up back in the minors at midseason.
A more mature hitter now, Kendrick has even walked five times in the first six games (four in the two-game series at Tampa Bay), boosting his on-base percentage to .517. The free-swinging Kendrick has never walked more than 28 times in any season in the major leagues or minors.
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