MINNEAPOLIS -- You have to be a hitter before you can become a power hitter. Create a solid foundation and build from there. This is a slice of wisdom Garret Anderson hands down to Casey Kotchman, Howie Kendrick, Mike Napoli and any other young Angels teammate in search of clues, tips and insights. "I saw early in my career that they didn't send any .300 hitters to the Minors," Anderson said, grinning.
Anderson has been following his own advice since returning from a torn flexor tendon in his right hip. The hits have kept coming, setting the stage, he hopes, for bigger, longer things when the opportunities arise. "It's coming," the Angels left fielder said, referring to the timing, rhythm and hand speed that form any hitter's check list. "The quickness is there, and I'm seeing the ball well. I don't worry about driving the ball. Just make solid contact, that's what I'm after. That stuff -- the power -- is a natural progression." As his career was evolving, Anderson absorbed all the information available from the likes of Rod Carew, Chili Davis and Mo Vaughn, established hitters with theories he'd weigh, incorporating whatever fit into his plan of attack. From Carew, for example, Anderson learned how to create a bat angle that would allow him to lift balls. Vaughn drove home the point that left-handers, accustomed to throwing outside to right-handed batters, are prone to mistakes inside that can be converted into big flies by alert left-handed hitters. "We've talked about that," Kotchman said, nodding. "Garret's always ready with some advice and input when you ask. He's given me a lot of helpful information." Entering Saturday night's assignment against Twins right-hander Boof Bonser, Anderson was hitting .370 with nine runs scored in 12 games since returning from the disabled list on July 2. With seven multihit efforts, he has his average (.291) close to his career standards (.297), and while the home runs (three in 175 at-bats) have been sparse, he has 15 doubles, right on track with a career pace (36 per season) that has made him one of the game's most respected hitters. Run production, another of the qualities that has identified Anderson, is stirring. He delivered two RBIs in each of the past two games, resembling the hitter who has averaged 95 RBIs across 12 seasons with that sweet stroke that made him the franchise leader in hits and total bases, as well as RBIs. In a sign of Anderson's progress, manager Mike Scioscia has him back into the cleanup spot, behind Vladimir Guerrero. "I don't think about it too much -- just roll with it," Anderson said. "I just go out and do my job, and try to help the team." Power outage: The Angels took a 13-game home run drought into Saturday night's game, five shy of the club record. But that's not Scioscia's major issue. He said he's more concerned with "the last 50, 60 at-bats" of Orlando Cabrera, Reggie Willits, Casey Kotchman and Gary Matthews Jr. "These guys have been in a little downturn," Scioscia said. "When we get in our game, start getting on base, getting runners in scoring position ... those things are more important than home runs. During that [six-week] stretch when we were averaging six runs a game, we weren't doing it with home runs." Guerrero, the 2007 State Farm Home Run Derby champion, has been stuck on 14 homers since June 23, a span of 20 games and 79 at-bats. Scioscia doesn't think his participation in the Derby has anything to do with it, that it's more a matter of Vlad "not seeing pitches to drive. "Vlad has perspective on how to hit," the manager added. "He's not just a home-run hitter." Short hops: It was no consolation, but John Lackey passed an Angels legend, Dean Chance, to take sixth place on the franchise strikeout list with 859 in Friday night's loss. Lackey has a long way to go to catch his youthful role model, Nolan Ryan, who produced 2,416 strikeouts for the Angels in 2,181 1/3 innings. Lackey is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in his past six starts. ... The power outage isn't the only missing offensive weapon. The Angels had gone four games without a steal coming into Saturday night, and that's news for the American League leaders, with 84 thefts. Tampa Bay (81) and Minnesota (80) are hot on the Angels' heels. Only the Mets, with 114, have more steals than the Angels. Minor sensations: Right-hander Brok Butcher, promoted to Double-A Arkansas, worked six scoreless innings for his first win in an 8-3 decision over Tulsa. Butcher, 23, from Santa Ynez High School and Oxnard Community College, was 5-7 with a 2.69 ERA in 18 games at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Third baseman Freddy Sandoval (.297, club-high 50 RBIs) homered, singled and drove in three runs in support of Butcher, who hasn't allowed an earned run in 12 innings at Arkansas, striking out nine and walking one. Behind Blake Holler, who went five innings for the win to go to 2-3, Warner Madrigal notched his seventh save for Class A Cedar Rapids in a 2-1 win over Dayton. Madrigal, a 23-year-old right-hander from San Pedro de Macoris, D.R., is 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 37 games, striking out 51 against 19 walks in 42 1/3 innings. Up next: Saunders (3-0, 2.97) faces Matt Garza (1-1, 0.00) in Sunday's series finale at 11:10 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.