ARLINGTON -- Howard Kendrick, the Angels' iron man, was given Saturday off against the Rangers, with Maicer Izturis assuming his second base role and No. 2 spot in the batting order.
"Erick Aybar and Howie have played a lot," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They're going to have to get off their feet a bit. It's a good day for Howie to freshen up a little bit."
Kendrick leads the American League in games played with 97, and this is only the fourth start he has not made. The heavy workload perhaps has had something to do with his 2-for-17 showing on the road trip, but, like Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter, he has been hitting in bad luck. All three have been hitting hard shots for outs.
"I've been feeling pretty good up there," Kendrick said. "You go through periods like this, where you're not getting balls to fall. Seems like I've had more than my share this year, but it's the nature of the game."
Kazmir gets good news
ARLINGTON -- Scott Kazmir was on the receiving end of some highly encouraging news from Dr. Keith Meister, the Rangers' team physician, with respect to an intensive examination on his left shoulder, which has the southpaw on the 15-day disabled list with fatigue.
"The MRI [taken Thursday] was better than good, Dr. Meister told me," Kazmir said. "He said, `Yes, there are some abnormalities, but that's always going to be there for someone who has been pitching for six years.' For as long as I've been throwing, he said it's way above normal. That was a big relief."
Kazmir experienced weakening in the shoulder in his start in Oakland, right before the All-Star break on July 10. He took a severe pounding that night, giving up 13 earned runs, and was worried that something might be seriously wrong with the shoulder.
"The problem is the back of the shoulder kind of shut down," Kazmir said. "It wasn't supporting my delivery enough; it was cutting it down, not allowing me to drive through. It felt like a knot in there.
"We started doing strengthening exercises when we were in New York on the specific area in the shoulder. I'm going to start playing catch [on Sunday], and every day we'll see how it responds. Once I get it stabilized, I'll be able to fire and explode through the pitch. I haven't been able to do that in a while."
Kazmir said there is no timetable for his return, but he's optimistic he'll be back, healthier and more productive.
Kazmir is 7-9 with a 6.92 ERA in 17 starts with Anaheim this season. An American League strikeout king at 23 with the Rays, he has only 60 K's in 92 1/3 innings, walking 49 hitters.
With Sean O'Sullivan getting dealt to Kansas City in the Alberto Callaspo deal, right-hander Trevor Bell assumes Kazmir's rotation spot in Sunday night's series finale against the Rangers' Tommy Hunter. It is Bell's first start of the season for the Angels, while Hunter is 7-0 with a 2.09 ERA.
Willits plays in place of Rivera
ARLINGTON -- Juan Rivera seems to have rediscovered his hitting stroke, following his career pattern of heating up with the temperatures, but the big left fielder was not in the lineup on Saturday night.
Reggie Willits got the call from manager Mike Scioscia, batting ninth against Scott Feldman. Rivera is 3-for-20 (.150) in his career, but he's hitting .400 on this road trip in 15 at-bats and is a .304 career hitter in Arlington.
Willits, the most disciplined of Angels hitters along with Bobby Abreu in terms of pitches seen per at-bat, provides more speed than Rivera on the bases and in the outfield. Willits is hitting .253, Rivera .257.
"Reggie does bring defense," Scioscia said. "He puts an element of speed in the game, both on the offensive and defensive side. He's going to work some counts."
The Angels' seven-game American League West deficit to the Rangers heading into Saturday night's game is their largest after 99 games since 2003, when they were 10 1/2 games off the pace. ... After producing 29 hits in the two games in New York, the Angels were held to nine in the first two games by the Rangers. ... Erick Aybar, a .372 career hitter in July, is batting .349 since June 3. He is 7-for-15 (.467) in his career against Scott Feldman -- the Rangers' starter Saturday -- and is second in the Majors with 29 infield hits. Mike Napoli, back at first base after catching Joe Saunders, is 11-for-21 (.524) against Feldman with two homers. ... Napoli leads all MLB catchers in homers per games played, one every 5.4, in his career. Jorge Posada is next with one every 6.5 games. ... Closer Brian Fuentes, who likes frequent work, hasn't yielded a run in his past 11 appearances, his ERA falling to 3.81 from 6.23. ... Maicer Izturis, batting second behind Aybar against Feldman, has committed one error in 32 total games at third base, shortstop and second base this season and just four errors in his past 108 games. ... Izturis is a .328 career hitter with runners in scoring position in 448 at-bats.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.