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Every spring is a scorcher for Angels' Howie Kendrick

ANGELS FYI

Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick always seems to hit well in Cactus League play, and this year is no exception: He's batting a team-leading .500.

March 15, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Through seven spring training seasons Howie Kendrick is hitting .367, which is 75 points higher than his regular-season average over that time.
Through seven spring training seasons Howie Kendrick is hitting .367,… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

TEMPE, Ariz. — If the Cactus League had a Hall of Fame, the Angels' Howie Kendrick would be inducted on the first ballot.

With two hits in Friday's 8-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Kendrick extended his spring-training hitting streak to 12 games and upped his average to a team-leading .500. Over the last seven springs, Kendrick is hitting .367, 75 points better than his regular-season average from 2007 to 2012.

"The biggest thing is just trying to play like it's a real game," Kendrick said. "That's the only way you're really going to get prepared for the season. Everything is going to be set back to zero once we start opening day."

An important part of Kendrick's preparation is learning to be patient. He has averaged 117 strikeouts — and only 31 walks — the last two seasons.

"The biggest thing for me is just trying to see as many pitches as I can," said Kendrick, who has been hitting second in the lineup most of the spring. "If I can minimize the times I'm swinging out of the zone, it maximizes my chances of getting good pitches to hit."

Hitting won't be his only focus this season. Only pitcher Jered Weaver has been with the Angels longer than Kendrick, who will turn 30 in July. And with clubhouse spokesman Torii Hunter having moved on to Detroit, Kendrick will be called on to fill a leadership role — something teammates say he's already begun to do.

"The biggest thing is just playing the game," Kendrick said. "Torii had that very outgoing personality . . . but the one thing that he did do every day was show up and play. And I think that was a testament to a lot of the young guys. That 'hey, this guy shows up every day. He's been doing it for 13 years and he's still ready to play today.' He brought that passion every day.

"Every guy should know by the time he gets to the major leagues what they need to do to be prepared. And if there's something that needs to be said, it will be addressed. But it's something that you do behind closed doors."

Change for the better

Ernesto Frieri's earned-run average of 4.50 in last season's second half was more than six times higher his microscopic first-half ERA of 0.71. One reason was that hitters were sitting on his fastball.

So Frieri added a changeup to his arsenal this spring. And after a second straight scoreless appearance Friday, he said he's pleased with the pitch.

"It's not done, but it's getting better," he said. "I feel comfortable enough to use it in any situation."

With closer Ryan Madson starting the season on the disabled list, the Angels have at least a temporary opening at the back of the bullpen. Frieri, who saved 23 games last year, figures to get the job — though neither he nor Manager Mike Scioscia has said that.

"I'm ready for any situation," Frieri said. "Whatever role they give me, I'm just going to go out there and do the same thing — try to get people out and help the team win."

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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