Milestone double 'very special' to Abreu
Angels veteran ties Gehrig on all-time list with 534
ANAHEIM -- The two-plus seasons Bobby Abreu spent in New York in Yankees pinstripes represented an advanced education in many forms, including Bronx Bombers lore. Abreu became well versed in the history of monumental figures such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.
"In my two years and a couple of months there, I got to know how special Lou Gehrig is in the game," Abreu said a few hours before the Angels opened a four-game series against the Athletics. "Any time you do something that puts you in a conversation with him, that's very special. It means a lot to know that you've done something that he did."
It happened on Sunday in classic Abreu fashion, lashing a fastball to right-center against the Braves. When he reached second base, he had tied Gehrig for 32nd all-time in doubles with 534. Among active players, only Todd Helton and Ivan Rodriguez have more.
"I have the ball," Abreu said, grinning. "And I will definitely have the next one, too. Those are ones you keep."
Back to hitting third after 22 games in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, Abreu has begun to drive the ball with force again. The Angels are 14-10 when he bats third, 10-14 when he doesn't. In any event, Abreu has a history of heating up with the weather, something he attributes to growing up in the warmth of his native Venezuela.
"I never feel right when it's cold, and it's been really cold so far this season," he said. "Cold weather is too much. You freeze your hands and it makes you rush. It throws off your mechanics and you get in bad habits. It's not just me. A lot of guys -- like Torii [Hunter] -- are the same way."
Abreu is batting .438 during a five-game hitting streak and had four hits, including his second homer, in nine at-bats in the Interleague series against the Braves. The game's reigning iron man, he has missed only one game and appears a reasonably safe bet to appear in at least 150 games for the 14th consecutive season, which would put him alone at the top. He now shares the record with Willie Mays, Cal Ripken Jr. having had his streak broken by the premature end to the 1994 season.
"Being mentioned with names like Lou Gehrig and Willie Mays," Abreu said, "that makes you feel like you've accomplished some things in this game."
Willits starts in left, eyes breakout at plate
ANAHEIM -- Reggie Willits was given his fourth start of the season in left field on Monday night as the Angels opened a four-game series against the Athletics, who swept two games from them in Oakland last week.
Willits is hitless in 10 at-bats with two walks, but he likes where his swing is in batting practice and hopes to break out with a productive performance against A's lefty Josh Outman. He was placed ninth in the order, behind Peter Bourjos.
"My swing feels awesome in BP from the right side," Willits, a switch-hitter, said. "I just have to translate that into a game and do what I can to contribute."
A natural center fielder, Willits is comfortable playing left alongside Bourjos, having done so last year.
"I have to approach playing the corners with the same mentality I have in center field," Willits said. "I have to go after everything. I'll take a look at where Pete is and adjust my route accordingly. He's pretty good at calling you off."
Halos cautious with Kendrick's tight hamstring
ANAHEIM -- Howard Kendrick had a bat in his hand on Monday afternoon, but he wouldn't be using it later in the evening against the Athletics.
One of the American League's most productive hitters, ranking fifth in batting average (.322) and total bases (92) and third in hits (57), Kendrick missed the weekend Interleague series against Atlanta with tightness in his right hamstring. He felt it grab on him in Seattle on Thursday, and he's day to day.
"They want to give it a little more time to heal," Kendrick said. "I'll be back pretty soon. I hate to watch, but sometimes you have no choice."
He did pool therapy on Friday and will start running on the field again on Tuesday or Wednesday, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.
"It'll probably be a couple days before we consider" returning Kendrick to the lineup, he added. Scioscia said he doesn't believe a trip to the disabled list will be needed.
There was nothing new to report on outfielder Vernon Wells, who is playing catch in his recovery from a right groin strain. Scioscia said it was too early to give a timetable for Wells' return.
After missing game, Scioscia gets back to work
ANAHEIM -- Having spent Sunday attending son Matthew's graduation from Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Angels manager Mike Scioscia was back behind his desk and in the dugout for Monday night's series opener against the Oakland Athletics.
"We enjoyed it," Scioscia said. "The ceremony lasted about two hours, and then we went to dinner afterward. A big day for the family."
The commencement address was given by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, one of a series of farewell speeches he is giving as he steps down as Pentagon head next month. Gates has devoted more than four decades of public service in various administrations.
Scioscia joked that maybe he should have stayed longer given that the Angels prevailed with bench coach Rob Picciolo calling the shots. The Angels were 6-0 with former bench coach Ron Roenicke -- now managing the Brewers -- at the helm during several of Scioscia's absences in previous seasons.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.