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Howie Kendrick, the Angels' unorthodox No. 2 hitter

The Angels' Howie Kendrick doesn't fit the traditional mold of a No. 2 hitter, but Manager Mike Scioscia says the second baseman is improving his plate discipline.

April 01, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Angels second basemen Howie Kendrick flips the ball to first base for an out against the Kansas City Royals in the seventh inning Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Angels second basemen Howie Kendrick flips the ball to first base for an… (Peter G. Aiken / US Presswire )

Reporting from Kansas City, Mo.

The ideal No. 2 hitter is a patient batter who has a high on-base percentage, draws walks and likes to see a lot of pitches.

Howie Kendrick, who has hit second in the Angel lineup the first two games, is none of those things.

"I don't know if he's a prototypical No. 2 guy," Manager Mike Scioscia said. But "he can just flat-out hit. So you're not really looking for him to work counts. You're looking for production."

Kendrick gave Scioscia what he was looking for Friday, drilling a full-count pitch over the center-field wall in the first inning. But that proved to be the extent of the Angels' offense in a 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

As for all that other stuff, well he's improving. Kendrick averaged fewer than four pitches per plate appearance last season. But he worked the count full in all four trips to the plate Friday and has seen at least five pitches in six of his eight at-bats this season.

Sure, it's early. But Kendrick, who walked fewer times than the free-swinging Vladimir Guerrero last season, says his new approach will make him a better hitter.

"The more selective you are at the plate, the less balls you swing at. Obviously they've got to know, 'OK, well I've got throw strikes now.'" Kendrick said "So that changes the game a little bit. They've got an area they've got to throw it in. And then, for you as a hitter, you're like, 'OK, well, if they throw it in this area, I'm going to try to crush it.'"

Scioscia and Kendrick credit the new approach to experience and maturity at the plate, which could pay even bigger dividends for both when Kendrys Morales returns to the lineup, moving Bobby Abreu up to the No. 2 spot and dropping Kendrick to his customary sixth.

"I understand the strike zone a little more now," Kendrick said. "And [I'm] getting a little more aware of what pitchers are trying to do and just trying to stay focused on the at-bat and just keep it pitch to pitch. Versus worrying about what happened the last pitch and worrying about what's coming the next pitch."

Royals fan hurt

After Thursday's season opener, a Kansas City Royals team official said the fan struck by Torii Hunter's broken bat was not seriously injured and watched the rest of the game from another seat.

Turns out that wasn't true.

A man identifying himself as the fan's brother contacted a Kansas City newspaper Friday and said the unnamed woman remained in a local hospital, where she was expected to undergo facial surgery.

"It's a very regretful situation for us," said an apologetic Royals spokesman, who said poor communication between the team and medical personnel led to the mistake.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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