YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

For Angels' Howie Kendrick, change makes a difference

The second baseman's batting average has improved significantly since he moved lower in batting order.

May 18, 2012|By Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times

Mike Scioscia might be perceived as more old school than computer geek, but the Angels manager does study in-depth batting statistics.

"Some of the stuff is very good, and it can help you slot and match guys up," Scioscia said.

Scioscia moved second baseman Howie Kendrick from second to sixth in the batting order April 30, and the second baseman has batted .333 in the spot since.

The oddity of Kendrick's 26-point leap in batting average was that he went without a run batted in from May 3 until Wednesday.

Scioscia, who slotted Kendrick in the fifth spot Thursday, predicted that by using Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo in Kendrick's old No. 2 spot, and hitting Kendrick behind Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, the RBIs are sure to come.

"Long range, it makes more sense," Scioscia said. "[Kendrick's] in a spot better suited for him. There's no reason he can't [knock] in 85 to 90 runs."

They know the new guy

New Angels hitting coach Jim Eppard carried a clipboard into the clubhouse, chatted with a couple of players and wrote the Thursday batting-cage time (10:40 am.) in Sharpie on a white board.

"For me, it's just a matter of connecting with them, just talking, there's a lot of uncharted water here," Eppard said.

The challenges of replacing fired 13-season hitting coach Mickey Hatcher are eased somewhat by Eppard's rapport with a few of his old students from the 10 years he spent as hitting coach at triple-A Salt Lake.

One of those is Kendrick, who had 104 at-bats under Eppard from 2006-09.

"He definitely understands hitting and he'll do a good job for us," Kendrick said.

Hunter still at home

Angels outfielder Torii Hunter remained in Texas with his 17-year-old son, Darius, who is facing a felony charge of sexually assaulting a child.

"Torii has been with his son throughout this, and he will stay here until this matter is either resolved or under control," said Todd Shapiro, Darius' attorney. "He is a father first and foremost."

Wells' work

There is clearly sentiment among Angels fans for a starting outfield of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Hunter (when he returns), which would relegate highly paid left fielder Vernon Wells to a bench role.

After batting .218 with 86 strikeouts last season, Wells, 33, strengthened his case to remain in the lineup Wednesday by slugging his team-high sixth home run. His batting average remains troublesome at .238, but he's on pace to shrink his 2011 strikeouts total by nearly 20.

"It's getting closer to being back where I need to be — barreling up the balls," Wells said before drawing a walk in Thursday's 6-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox. "It's about getting on base, creating runs, doing whatever the situation is, putting one in the seats."

Scioscia pointed to Wells' .305 batting average in nine games before Thursday, and said having a power source in the back of the lineup is critical.

"You're seeing a guy hitting the ball hard.… If you have a productive Vernon Wells hitting seventh, that speaks volumes to the depth of your lineup," Scioscia said.

Los Angeles Times Articles