ANAHEIM – With Boston’s Dustin Pedroia on the disabled list, there is a strong chance the Angels will have three All-Stars in uniform when they host the July 13 Midsummer Classic at Angel Stadium.
Torii Hunter and Jered Weaver certainly deserve to represent the American League, and Howard Kendrick also has moved front and center as a legitimate candidate.
Kendrick, who banged his 50th RBI with a first-inning double against C.J. Wilson and the Rangers on Thursday night, is the logical candidate to join the Yankees’ Robinson Cano on the American League roster.
Kendrick has been the most durable of the Angels, and one of the steadiest offensively and defensively. Only Cano among Major League second baseman have driven in more runs than Kendrick, who flourished in the leadoff role when Erick Aybar was out with a knee injury.
Kendrick went through a stretch when he was hitting in terrible luck, drilling balls at gloves on a nightly basis, but the hits started falling and he’s been on a roll, batting .342 over his past 18 games.
A natural hitter with a stroke reminiscent of Derek Jeter’s, Kendrick has put in most of his work on the defensive end – and it is paying off with improved glove work, notably in turning the double play.
“Howie’s having a terrific season,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “He’s certainly deserving of All-Star consideration.”
Hunter makes an even stronger case.
“Howard belongs on the team,” Hunter said. “He deserves it.” – Lyle Spencer
ANAHEIM – Angels third baseman Chone Figgins has done several things this season better than anybody in the American League.
He has reached base 274 times heading into a three-game weekend series against the Athletics, and he has 98 walks. Leading the AL in both categories, he also is tied for the lead in runs scored (109) with Boston’s Dustin Pedroia.
Back-to-back three-hit games against the Yankees on Tuesday and Wednesday brought Figgins back over the .300 mark, to .301. His .399 on-base percentage has him tied for fifth in the AL with the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, the only leadoff man to get on base that frequently.
With a .471 stretch through his past 17 at-bats, Figgins has put a .188 stretch in 32 at-bats in his rear-view mirror.
“You’re not always going to get hits to fall,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “Even thought hits weren’t falling, he was still getting on base, walking. That’s what makes him a dynamic offensive player. He can get on base even when he’s not swinging the bat well. He’s done that.”
It was Bobby Abreu, arguably the most disciplined hitter in the sport, who pointed something out to Figgins early in the season that his next-locker neighbor has not forgotten.
“Bobby said, `You’re a good hitter. Be more selective. Because you’re a leadoff hitter, that’s what’s going to set you apart.’ He said, `You may not get two hits in a game, but going 0-for-2 with two walks and scoring two runs, you’ve had a great game.
“He said I could do that without taking away my aggressiveness. You get a pitch to hit, go after it. It’s interesting what has happened this year. I’m getting a lot of first-pitch changeups, curveballs. They’re showing me respect. They know if I get a pitch I can handle, I can drive it.”
Figgins has five homers for the season, but two have come in the past four games. He is four runs away from matching his career high of 113 from 2005.
With 42 steals, third in the AL, he’s 20 away from his career high set in that same 2005 season when he played a career-best 158 games and batted .290.
Having played a team-high 149 games, Figgins could finish with 159. But it’s not likely he’ll continue to play every game in the aftermath of a third consecutive American League West title.
On top of his endurance and offensive productivity, Figgins is clearly a strong candidate for the AL Rawlings Gold Glove for his brilliant play at third base.