DETROIT -- Smiling, an upbeat Howie Kendrick was back in his element -- back with the Angels, back at second base against the Tigers at Comerica Park, taking his .327 average into the No. 8 spot in a suddenly sizzling batting order. "Hopefully, I can fit back in here and contribute," Kendrick said. "They've been playing unbelievably well. It's always fun to be part of a winning team." When he was forced to the disabled list on April 18 after a pitch from Oakland's Chad Gaudin broke a bone in the middle finger of his left hand, Kendrick was one of the few Angels swinging a warm bat. It was the end of a deflating 1-7 trip through three time zones complete with snow, sleet, rain and heavy winds.
He returns to a club rolling along with a six-game winning streak and a 5 1/2-game lead in the American League West. Kendrick produced three homers and 10 RBIs in seven rehab games at Triple-A Salt Lake, batting .320 with a .720 slugging percentage. Playing second in six games, his hand gradually improved to the degree that he wasn't thinking about re-injuring it. "The first couple games when I started playing, I felt it," Kendrick said. "Now I don't even think about it. It's about where I was before I got hit. Fielding is great. As far as impact on the hand is concerned, everything is gone." In his first night back for Salt Lake, Kendrick got drilled in the forearm with a pitch. "I had a pad in there," he said, referring to his left hand. "I'm not going to be afraid to get in the batter's box. It's all about getting back in there, feeling comfortable and having fun. "The last couple games I was more or less feeling good, getting back in stride. I was trying to establish my timing, put some good swings on the ball. For some reason, I feel more comfortable hitting up here [in the Major Leagues]. Any level you're at, you have to adapt to that level." In Kendrick's absence, Erick Aybar excelled in 27 starts at second. Hamstrung again: It was on one of the finest plays he's made as a third baseman -- charging a slow roller against the Dodgers on Sunday in Anaheim and getting an out with a strong throw -- that Maicer Izturis felt the pain return to his right hamstring. Shelved from April 30 to May 14 with the initial injury, suffered running the bases in Chicago during his best offensive game of the season (homer, game-winning RBI), Izturis acknowledged that going back on the DL, making room for Kendrick, was necessary. But he said it's not as bad as the left hamstring injury that had the all-purpose infielder on the DL last season from April 24 to June 8. "I can play, but not 100 percent," Izturis said. "I want to play 100 percent to help the team win. The stolen base is part of my game, and I can't do that now. I'll do my exercises and get back as soon as I can." He's batting .245 but leads the club with his .429 average with runners in scoring position. Izturis has committed only one error in 29 games, 23 as the starter at third in Chone Figgins' absence. Hot-hitting Robb Quinlan (.333 in his past 11 starts) is Figgins' main backup at third. Request granted: Troy Percival, attempting to make a comeback after announcing his retirement on Opening Day, met with Tony Reagins, Angels director of player development, seeking a release from his contract as a Minor League pitching instructor. The request was granted, giving the Angels' former closer the opportunity to continue his workouts in an effort to catch on with a Major League club. With their pitching staff in order, the Angels do not appear to be a likely destination for Percival, the club's all-time saves leader with 316. Detroit, where he spent his last two seasons, has expressed interest. Stat of the day: Angels pitchers have assembled a 2.44 ERA over the past 13 games (11 wins), pushing the club to the top of the American League with a 3.43 ERA. The starters are second with a 3.24 ERA, leading in innings pitched and strikeouts. Up next: Ervin Santana (3-5, 5.06) faces Jeremy Bonderman (2-0, 4.20) in a duel of young right-handed guns in the series finale on Thursday at 10:05 a.m. PT.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.