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Angels waiting for Kendrick

If second baseman is to play in division series, he needs to return to the lineup by Wednesday.

September 19, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- If Howie Kendrick is to play in the American League division series, which begins Oct. 1 or 2, the Angels' injured second baseman will have to return to the lineup by Tuesday or Wednesday, Manager Mike Scioscia said.

Kendrick, out since Aug. 28 because of a left hamstring strain, picked up the pace of his running workouts Thursday and is scheduled to run today at about 80%, mixing in some curves.

He will need to run the bases aggressively before being activated.

If he can return by Tuesday or Wednesday, Kendrick would have five or six games to prepare for the postseason, not the most optimum rehabilitation period but probably enough.

"The dilemma with Howie is not only getting him healthy but getting him into game shape, and that's a bit of an issue," Scioscia said before the Angels' 6-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics at McAfee Coliseum on Thursday.

"He hasn't played in four weeks. You can't just throw him out there for five straight days and say, 'Here's your 20 at-bats, you're ready.'

"He has to work his way back into baseball activities, get more aggressive on the practice field and then into a game."

Ideally, the Angels would bring Kendrick back gradually, as they did with shortstop Erick Aybar, who missed three weeks because of a left hamstring strain.

Aybar played three innings Tuesday, five innings Wednesday and took Thursday off. He is expected to start tonight in Texas.

But the Angels don't have that much time.

If Kendrick can play Tuesday or Wednesday in Seattle, Scioscia said he would probably lead him off so he can get at least three at-bats before coming out.

If he makes enough progress by next weekend's season-ending series against Texas that he appears close to being game ready, the Angels could send Kendrick to Arizona the Monday or Tuesday before the playoffs for some at-bats in instructional league games.

"We'll have to make a determination next week," Scioscia said. "If he can get in a game by Tuesday or Wednesday, we'll feel better about it.

"If not, we're going to have to look at some things very closely."

The Angels have been formulating contingency plans if Kendrick can't play in the first round. They could move third baseman Chone Figgins to second, assuming he recovers from a sore elbow and is able to throw, and start Brandon Wood or Robb Quinlan at third.

They could start Sean Rodriguez at second and keep Figgins at third, or they could start Wood at shortstop and move Aybar to second, a position he played superbly for a month in 2007.

Or, they could start a less-than-100% Kendrick at second, a decision that could cause considerable angst.

The Angels would love to get Kendrick's lethal bat into their playoff lineup -- he's hitting .308 with 100 hits, 26 of them doubles, in 86 games this season.

And with Kendrick hitting second, the Angels have so much depth that reserve outfielder Juan Rivera, who has hit all 12 of his home runs this season since July 2, would bat eighth.

Kendrick, who sat out six weeks of April and May because of a left hamstring strain, is much more of an offensive threat than Wood (.194) or Rodriguez (.192).

But would he be a better option than Wood or Rodriguez at 80%? At 70%?

"We have to determine, is this guy going to make you a better team, even if he maybe isn't as crisp as he can be?" Scioscia said. "If he's not at risk of further injury, you can consider putting him in if you think you're a better team with him.

"The issue isn't so much on the offensive side, because in spring training, he's ready to go in 15-20 at-bats.

"But there are some issues with getting him as comfortable as you can in the batter's box and getting the stiffness out from playing baseball every day."

Scioscia was asked if he considers Kendrick probable, questionable or doubtful for the playoffs.

"If he's not playing in a major league game by Wednesday, then he's questionable," Scioscia said. "Right now, we're very optimistic he'll be with us."

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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