TEMPE, Ariz. -- The numbers seemingly say it all. Put second baseman Howie Kendrick in the No. 2 spot, where bunting, taking pitches and moving guys over is part of the job description, and he scuffles a bit. Put him lower in the lineup, freeing him up to swing the bat more aggressively in an RBI spot, and he thrives.
Consider his career slash lines …
Batting 2nd: .257/.294/.401 in 784 plate appearances.
Batting 5th: .287/.337/.377 in 419 plate appearances.
Batting 6th: .309/.332/.451 in 648 plate appearances.
Batting 7th: .314/.352/.455 in 784 plate appearances.
Kendrick doesn't care where he hits. But it's tough to deny it isn't different when he bats second.
"You do have to be able to take pitches for other guys and move runners," Kendrick said. "It's not that I can't do that, but I like to be a little more aggressive and take what's given. Sometimes being in the 2-spot, it might not be as beneficial. But that's part of the reason why I moved from there to like the 6-hole or the 5-hole. Which is fine, too. I'm never one to complain about where I hit. As long as I'm in the lineup and helping the team win, that's all I care about."
Angels manager Mike Scioscia will spend a good portion of the spring trying to figure out who bats in that coveted No. 2 hole between leadoff hitter Mike Trout and the menacing duo of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar will get plenty of looks there. But on nights when Vernon Wells starts in the outfield, the Angels will have more power toward the bottom of the order, which could free up Kendrick to bat second.
Kendrick's career numbers may suggest he's better off batting sixth or seventh, but perhaps he hasn't received a fair shake at the No. 2 spot.
Last year, Kendrick began the season as the Angels' No. 2 hitter and struggled, batting .250 with a .277 on-base percentage in the first 20 games before regaining his comfort level a few spots down in the batting order. Kendrick's struggles came in April, though -- before Trout came up and before Pujols really got going.
Would it be different now?
"[Trout will] be on base and you'll probably see a lot more fastballs," Kendrick said. "But at the same time, too, you have to give him the opportunity to run. So that part never changes. … You have to weigh your options. I'd rather be hitting with him on second base than first base, so you have to give him the opportunity to take the bag, and I don't ever want to limit a guy's game like that, when you know they're going to have a great chance of stealing that bag."