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ANGELS FYI

Defense remains a strong point for Angels

Only six teams have made fewer errors and Howie Kendrick has the highest fielding percentage and fewest errors among regular American League second basemen.

September 19, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick tags out Toronto's Kelly Johnson on a steal attempt in the second inning Monday night.
Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick tags out Toronto's Kelly Johnson… (Mike Cassese / Reuters )

Reporting from Toronto -- Although fielding mistakes cost the Angels a game Monday, defense has been one of the team's bright spots this season. Only six teams in baseball have made fewer errors than the Angels and no regular American League second baseman has a higher fielding percentage or fewer errors than the Angels' Howie Kendrick.

That's quite a change from last season when just four second basemen had fewer errors than Kendrick.

And if you ask Manager Mike Scioscia, it's no secret why.

"If you watch him and watch how hard he works and you watch his pregame, everything about him is at game speed," Scioscia said of Kendrick, who hasn't made an error in more than a month. "And I think it's given him a lot of confidence on the defensive end. He's improved tenfold from when he first signed."

Kendrick made another fine play Monday, diving to stop a Jose Bautista ground ball in the eighth, thwarting a Toronto rally and nearly starting a double play.

"There are things that a player who's playing on the defensive side is going to get comfortable with by playing every day, as far as positioning and understanding the spray charts and hopefully making plays easier," Scioscia said.

"These guys take defense very seriously. Howie's a very good athlete. His hands are good. He's had the tools to evolve to the type player he has and he's worked hard to do it. I don't know if you call it maturity, you call it desire, whatever. He's worked hard."

A wing and a prayer

Lost in the wild ending Monday was another spectacular performance by Toronto starter Ricky Romero, who gave up just two runs and six hits in nine innings.

The former Cal State Fullerton left-hander, who grew up a Dodgers fan in East Los Angeles, retired nine batters in a row at one point and 10 straight in another stretch.

In his last two starts against the Angels, he's given up three runs and eight hits in 16 innings. And he's lost just once in the last two months.

"I was praying," said Torii Hunter, who had two of the Angels' seven hits. "I was just trying to get something out over the plate. Because anything middle-in, it's going to break your bat.

"The two-seamer would break in. The changeup, the curveball. You name it. He threw everything but the kitchen sink. He was on top of his game."

Short hops

Shortstop Erick Aybar shared the AL Player of the Week award with Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander. Aybar batted .455 in six games, including a four-for-four performance Sunday in Baltimore in which he homered twice, drove in a career-high four runs and tied a franchise record by scoring five times. Verlander won both his starts last week, pitching 15 shutout innings to raise his season record to 24-5….Rookie outfielder Mike Trout sat out a second game with a sore left calf, injured when he fouled a ball off his leg in the ninth inning Saturday in Baltimore. Scioscia is hoping Trout will be well enough to start Tuesday….Hunter's fifth-inning assist was his 15th of the season, a career high.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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