Kendrick studying fellow Angels

Kendrick studying fellow Angels

SEATTLE -- A keen student of the game, fully aware of the dues he must pay to fulfill his destiny as a batting champion, Howie Kendrick keeps his eyes trained on those who can help him get there. And they don't have to utter a word of advice.

Determined not to waste his time during lengthy layoffs with hamstring issues, Kendrick has intently studied Torii Hunter, Garret Anderson, Chone Figgins, Vladimir Guerrero, Mike Napoli ... anyone he can draw from and make deposits in his memory bank. Lately, the Angels' gifted young second baseman has zeroed in on Mark Teixeira, a virtual textbook in the flesh.

"Teixeira's approach is the same all the time," Kendrick said. "It's been the same since Day One [July 29, when he came to the Angels from Atlanta]. He gets his pitch, and he hits it hard, all over the field. He's impressive -- definitely a great hitter, strong to all fields.

"He's patient; he doesn't give in. If he doesn't get his pitch in his zone, he'll take a walk. He knows he's surrounded by a lot of guys who can drive him in. I like to talk to him, Torii, Garret, Figgy ... they all help me in different ways. I'm trying to take something from everyone and see if I can apply it if it fits."

Yet, at heart, he remains the same Kendrick who batted .359 in 375 Minor League games, using his compact swing to slash line drives to all fields.

Sidelined since Aug. 27 with a strain of the same left hamstring that took him down on April 13 for 42 games, Kendrick returned on Monday night at Safeco Field with two at-bats, hitting the ball sharply to shortstop for outs.

Satisfied that the hamstring would hold out in the field and on the bases, he came back Tuesday night with renewed confidence and was back to being Howie Kendrick, hitter extraordinaire. Twice he lashed singles the other way, trotting home on homers by Gary Matthews Jr. and Napoli.

His average at .309, a beaming Kendrick feels he's ready to fine-tune over the remaining five games and be close to top form for the postseason.

"I'm not trying to do too much," he said. "I'm just thinking about putting together good at-bats, moving runners, basically doing what the team needs. It's all about winning.

"When I'm hitting the ball hard the other way, it shows me I'm staying back, not swinging at pitchers' pitches."

A patient, controlled Kendrick can challenge for multiple batting titles if he can avoid the kinds of debilitating injuries that have set him back the past two seasons.

He'll occasionally admit that he'd "like to get one" batting title "someday," but these days it's all about the moment, the next at-bat, the next ground ball. It's what Magic Johnson used to call winnin' time, and it is a mind-set that is absorbing everyone who takes a paycheck from Angels owner Arte Moreno.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.