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Angels' Howie Kendrick looks to play strong the full season

Second baseman wants to avoid a slump similar to the one that affected him early last year.

March 01, 2010|By Jim Peltz

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — With his self-described "reality check" behind him, Howie Kendrick is looking forward to the Angels' new season, and by that he means the full season.

Kendrick began 2009 with a career .306 batting average but slumped badly three months into the season. Hitting only .231 in early June, he was sent to triple-A Salt Lake.

It was a loud wake-up call for Kendrick, who everyone agreed was pressing too hard. And after he was called back to the big leagues in early July, Kendrick made the most of it.

The Florida native batted .351 from July 4 through the end of the season, lifting his average to .291 for the year, and hit safely in 22 of his last 27 games.

Kendrick, a 26-year-old right-handed batter, sees no reason why he can't pick up in 2010 where he left off in 2009.

"This year I'm just going into it with the same mind-set . . . try to stay within myself mainly, get good pitches to hit and hopefully I'll hit .300 again this year," Kendrick said Sunday. "I just try to play the game and help us win ballgames and, as an end result, I'll be where I want to be."

Kendrick said he also doesn't dwell on his slump -- "to be honest with you, I didn't really think much about it during the off-season" -- but doesn't lose sight that it "definitely was a learning experience."

"Nobody wants to struggle," he said. "It's just something that I had to, as a player, figure out. Mentally it was the toughest thing because you've had the success, you know you can play the game, but for some reason you're outside of yourself, you're trying to do too much.

"I put too much pressure on myself. Once I came back I wasn't really worried about the pressures . . . I just played the game. You can't really worry about whether this or that can happen. You just have to play the game to win and have fun."

Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said, "Howie tried to be everything to everyone last year at the beginning of the season.

"He was absolutely pressing and tying himself up in knots both mentally and even physically. The best thing for him was to take a little step back." And this season, Scioscia said, Kendrick might "even be better with the experience."

Jepsen's jelly jam

Angels reliever Kevin Jepsen got married in November, but the event in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, was more memorable than he might have wished.

The day after the wedding, Jepsen was boogie-boarding in the ocean near his resort when he felt a burning sensation near his stomach. Jepsen looked down to find a jellyfish attached to his skin.

"I saw this big purple thing," he said. "I brushed at it with my hands, trying to push it away."

That worked, but the jellyfish wasn't the only thing that disappeared into the water. So had Jepsen's wedding ring.

"Less than 24 hours after I got married and the ring was already gone," he said. "I couldn't believe it."

And finally

Steady rain overnight Saturday and again Sunday left the field at Tempe Diablo Stadium too soggy for play, so the Angels worked out indoors. Their first spring game is Thursday against the Chicago White Sox.

Staff writer Kevin Baxter contributed to this report.

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