05/17/08 3:51 PM ET
Anderson up to old tricks
After sluggish start, Angels RBI leader finds comfort zone
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
"Once that happens," he said, "I usually stay in that comfort zone for the summer."
If form holds, this would be hugely positive news for Angels fans concerned, as always, about run production.
After a sluggish start, the most productive hitter in franchise history is up to his familiar tricks. He's pounding base hits (12 in his past 24 at-bats) and driving in runs (13 RBIs in the past 11 games). His average has grown from .218 to .278 while he has hit .415 (17-for-41) over that 11-game stretch.
"It is what we expected to see from him," manager Mike Scioscia said. "At times, we bumped him down [from fourth to sixth, with Casey Kotchman moving up] to see his pitches. Kotch was swinging as well as anybody in the lineup.
"I think the last 20 at-bats are as good as anything we saw [from Anderson] in the second half last year. He's really attacking the ball well."
It started on the road, in Kansas City, when Anderson suddenly came alive. Like his manager, it was something he fully expected, which is why he refused to believe critics claiming he was losing his touch at 35.
"You're supposed to slow down as you get older," Anderson said. "My hands are still quick. I can tell by how many times I'm getting out front and pulling balls foul.
"That's why I'm waiting a little, staying back, which is good. I needed to get that [hitting] zone a little bigger, and I've done that."
His reputation precedes him. Anderson rarely sees a fastball in a location where he can drive it. What that tells him is the scouting report on him is unchanged, that pitchers still don't want to risk putting a heater in his wheelhouse.
"In the last two games of the White Sox series, I saw four fastballs in eight at-bats," he said. "If they throw it, they're usually just showing it."
The thinking game never ends. Adjustments are made on the fly, pitch to pitch. In Friday night's series opener against the Dodgers, with two outs in the fifth inning and Gary Matthews Jr. on third base, Anderson dialed it back slightly.
"I actually let [the pitch] kind of beat me," he said. "I let my hands drag a little to get the ball in play, and I hit it in a good spot."
His RBI single gave Joe Saunders a 3-0 lead.
Coming into his duel in the blazing sun against veteran right-hander Chan Ho Park on Saturday, Anderson had five homers and was tied with Kotchman and Matthews for the club RBI lead with 24.
Most importantly, the hit man was back in his comfort zone -- and planning to keep the hits coming all summer long.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.