Adam Kennedy has made the dazzling defensive play look routine over the last couple of weeks. He has also begun to unleash some of the pop he displayed during last season's American League championship series, hitting six of his nine home runs over the last 25 games.
"He's playing as well as any second baseman we're seeing in our league," Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said, "and that's a tremendous compliment to his work ethic."
Kennedy said he takes as much pride in his hitting as his fielding, but it's his defense that has shown the greatest improvement over his first four seasons in the major leagues.
He has committed fewer errors in each successive year since making 19 as a rookie in 2000. Kennedy made 11 errors in 2001 and 10 in 2002. He has made only four errors this season in 105 games, second among American League second basemen behind Seattle's Bret Boone.
"I'd say this year and last year are pretty comparable," Kennedy said. "Both have been big improvements from the first couple of years."
Kennedy attributed his progress to working with infield coach Alfredo Griffin during spring training and taking countless ground balls from Scioscia every day during batting practice. Shortstop David Eckstein, Kennedy's double-play partner, has also contributed to the development of the former All-American shortstop from Cal State Northridge.
"To appreciate Adam Kennedy, you really have to look at where he was four years ago, coming over and learning a position like second base at the major league level," Scioscia said. "Then you would have seen the growing pains and the effort he put in."
After being slowed this season by a strained right hamstring, Kennedy has also picked up the pace offensively. He is hitting .333 since the All-Star break, raising his average from a season-low .242 on July 18 to .271 after hitting two doubles Saturday during the Angels' 11-7 victory over the Detroit Tigers at Edison Field.
Kennedy may not have smashed three homers in a game, as he did last year during the ALCS against Minnesota, but he already has hit as many homers as he has over the course of a season. Scioscia sees potential for more.
"I could definitely see him in the 10 to 15 home runs a year range," Scioscia said, "but his ability to hit 40 doubles and his willingness to, depending on where he's hitting in the lineup, be able to score or drive in 70 to 80 runs makes him a terrific offensive player."
Reliever Greg Jones has made the most of his opportunity since being promoted to the major leagues July 30, opening his Angel career with 10 scoreless innings over seven appearances. Jones has struck out nine while issuing only four walks, and opponents are hitting only .118 against him.
"He's not only throwing strikes, he's making pitches and showing a real good breaking ball and showing an ability to change speeds," Scioscia said. "That's a great package when a guy's pitching between 93 and 95 mph."
Said Jones: "Hopefully, if I can do it over the course of a month and a half or two months, then maybe there will be some consideration for me at some point next year."