Kendrick could thrive hitting second

Kendrick could thrive hitting second

Kendrick could thrive hitting second
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Howie Kendrick swears he doesn't care where he hits in the lineup.

"As long as I'm not hitting 10th," he says.

But the Angels all of a sudden have a coveted, ideal spot in their batting order heading into the 2012 season: The No. 2 spot, right in front of premier slugger Albert Pujols.

The most important thing for a pitcher facing the Angels' lineup next season will be to make sure Pujols isn't hitting with runners on base. That means taking care of the guys who are setting the table. And that means making sure the man hitting directly in front of the No. 3-hitting first baseman isn't getting walked.

"They might try to come at you a little more, but they're not going to try to give it up, either," Kendrick said. "It'd be fun. It'd be fun hitting in front of him if that happens, but at the same time, too, as long as I'm in the lineup, that's all I can ask for."

Mike Scioscia will use Spring Training games to figure out which duo works best at the top of the order. But Kendrick hit primarily second for him last season, when he hit .285 with a .338 on-base percentage and a career-high 18 homers.

Kendrick spent 43 of his games batting second, along with 22 in the No. 3 spot, 39 hitting fifth and 28 sixth. Shortstop Erick Aybar was next with 35 games in the two-hole, followed by Bobby Abreu at 27.

A No. 2 hitter, as Kendrick says, has to "do a little bit of everything," whether it's hit-and-run, bunt, drive the ball or draw walks. But batting in the No. 2 spot can also be of big individual benefit if an especially intimidating bat waits on deck.

Rich Aurilia's career year coincided with hitting second in front of former Giants slugger Barry Bonds in 2001. And it surely didn't hurt Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter to hit second in front of guys like Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams and Alex Rodriguez from 1998-2004.

What would Kendrick's numbers look like if he hit second in front of Pujols?

"I can't even tell you," Kendrick, who signed a four-year extension this offseason, said with a laugh. "I think one of the biggest things is I just have to go out and play, and just help us win. It could be great, but we don't know yet."