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ON THE ANGELS


ON THE ANGELS
When Howie Kendrick moved across the Angels' clubhouse and into a locker next to Torii Hunter's this spring, the hope was the veteran Hunter would become a mentor to the 25-year-old Kendrick.

Sunday the club may have seen the first fruits of that labor. But they didn't come out on the field, where Kendrick laid waste to a mini-slump by driving in a career-high four runs in an 8-0 rout of the Seattle Mariners.

Kendrick, after all, could always hit.

No, where he really channeled Hunter was afterward, when he was asked to explain his success.

quot;I just started doing yoga and meditating in the morning,quot; Kendrick deadpanned as the playful Hunter watched from a distance, trying not to laugh. quot;Just thinking about my at-bats. It's good for the mind. It helps you relax a little bit.quot;

Truth be told, Kendrick's enlightenment at the plate came from a much more modern source -- the videotape player, which showed he was holding his hands too far back, tying up his upper body and hindering his swing.

quot;It was something so small that I didn't even know that I was doing it,quot; said Kendrick, who ended a four-for-31 skid with five hits and six RBIs in his last two games. quot;As far as hitting, the hand adjustment was very important.quot;

But don't underestimate the mental adjustments brought on by his new environment. Kendrick is coming off a difficult 2008 season that was disrupted by injuries, then ended with a four-game playoff performance against Boston in which he batted .118.

It's impossible to be down for too long sitting next to the perpetually bubbly Hunter, however -- especially when he also happens to be Kendrick's biggest fan.

quot;The guy hits the ball harder than anybody,quot; Hunter said. quot;He flushes the ball every time. When the ball knuckles, that means you hit it flush, like Tony Gwynn used to do.

quot;I think he can win a batting title one day.quot;

Kendrick and the Angels were simply content with winning a game Sunday, something they've struggled to do with consistency this season. And this win, only their third in nine games, looked like a blueprint for the kind of victories the club has grown accustomed to in recent seasons, one that mixed strong starting pitching with good pitching out of the bullpen and a deep and balanced offensive attack.

quot;We haven't gotten off to as good a start as everybody thought we would. But we're battling,quot; said Jered Weaver (2-1), who held the Mariners to three singles in seven shutout innings, lowering his earned-run average to 2.45. quot;It's just a matter of time before we get our groove and get some guys back and start rolling.

quot;It's a long season. And we're going to be just fine.quot;

Reliever Scot Shields and Brian Fuentes combined to get the last six outs -- Fuentes' three coming on strikeouts -- to give the Angels their first shutout since opening day.

And it was Kendrick who got the scoring started with a two-run second-inning homer -- his first of three hits -- against former Angel Jarrod Washburn (3-1).

He was one of five Angels with at least two hits, though, as Hunter contributed two singles, a double and two runs, and Gary Matthews Jr., Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera reached base three times each, with Rivera also adding a homer, his first of the season.

quot;We're getting contributions from a lot of guys. And we're going to need that depth,quot; Manager Mike Scioscia said. quot;[But] it's not just looking at one game and saying 'that's what we need.' This is what we're going to need on a nightly basis if we're going to reach our goal.quot;

--

kevin.baxter@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 27, 2009

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