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ANGELS SPRING REPORT

Howie Kendrick might have a new spot in Angels' lineup

Second baseman could end up hitting second to set up more production possibilities for the batters behind him in the order.

March 22, 2009|Mike DiGiovanna

TEMPE, ARIZ. — Howie Kendrick batted second for the fifth time in six Cactus League games Saturday, but the Angels second baseman is not just keeping the spot warm until Bobby Abreu returns from the World Baseball Classic.

Manager Mike Scioscia is giving strong consideration to using Kendrick in the two hole, an alignment that would push Abreu to the third spot, Vladimir Guerrero to cleanup and Torii Hunter to fifth.

"I think our lineup gets pretty deep if we have Howie doing what he can do hitting second, then Bobby third and Vlad fourth," Scioscia said.

"The template we laid out had [Chone Figgins], Abreu and Vlad one-two-three . . . but [with Kendrick hitting second] it can lengthen our lineup a bit. Another bat in front of Vlad might be more productive to set the table for him."

Kendrick is not a prototypical No. 2 hitter, a guy with the patience to allow Figgins to steal and the on-base percentage to be considered a table-setter. He hit .306 with a .333 on-base percentage and drew only 12 walks in 340 at-bats in 2008.

But Kendrick seems to be buying into the team's new offensive approach, which stresses selectivity. In addition to batting .367 in 11 games this spring, he has drawn three walks in 30 at-bats.

"Howie might not be the guy with a .400 on-base percentage, but if he hits .320, he's going to have a .350 on-base percentage, which is enough to hit in front of the middle of our lineup," Scioscia said. "The way he runs, the amount of doubles he's going to hit, he's going to be very productive ahead of that grouping."

A Nick in time

Nick Adenhart improved his bid to win one of the final two rotation spots, giving up one run and four hits, striking out six and walking one in five innings of a 4-4, 10-inning exhibition tie with Milwaukee on Saturday.

Adenhart, considered the Angels' top pitching prospect, took what Scioscia called "a half-step backward" last season.

In three big league starts, Adenhart gave up 12 earned runs and walked 13 in 12 innings. At triple-A Salt Lake, he was 9-13 with a 5.76 earned-run average, walking 75 and striking out 110 in 145 1/3 innings.

In four appearances this spring, Adenhart, who is competing with Dustin Moseley and Shane Loux, has walked two and struck out 10 in 13 1/3 innings.

"There's still some work to be done before determining [the rotation], but he's certainly a candidate," Scioscia said. "He's much farther along than he was at any point last season. He worked his butt off this winter."

On the mend

Guerrero, recovering from October surgery on his right knee, was hitless in three at-bats as the designated hitter Saturday. Though he is hitless in five at-bats in two games, Guerrero is excited about playing on a healthy knee.

"The knee is extremely well," Guerrero said through an interpreter. "It shouldn't take long to get my rhythm back."

Guerrero has looked good running to first, and Friday, he raced into right-center field to chase down a fly ball.

Short hops

Kendry Morales hit his second home run of the spring. The Angels scored the tying run in the bottom of the 10th on Alberto Rosario's single. . . . Mike Napoli, recovering from shoulder surgery, caught five innings of an intrasquad game against an opponent that was ordered not to steal bases. Napoli hit a home run.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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