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04/07/09 10:10 PM ET
Kendrick following Hunter's example
Angels infielder soaking up info from veteran outfielder
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- Howard Kendrick came to Spring Training with several missions. One was to follow Torii Hunter around and virtually mimic his teammate's every move in terms of conditioning and preparation. Another was to play a full Major League schedule for the first time. Kendrick believes the two goals are related. That is one reason why he has moved across the clubhouse to locker right next door to Hunter, the durable center fielder who rarely misses a game and never misses a Rawlings Gold Glove distinction, having won eight in a row. "I want to be Torii's shadow," said Kendrick, who homered and singled, driving in a pair of runs in the Angels' 3-0 Opening Day victory over the Athletics on Monday. "I admire the way he plays the game and the way he gets ready every day to play. "I spent the winter in Arizona learning more about how my body works and how I can hopefully avoid a few of the things that have happened to me in the past few years. I want to be a durable kind of player, the guy you can count on to be in the lineup every day -- like Torii. "Being next to Torii [in the clubhouse] is great. I'm able to learn a lot about the game from him every day. I'm also picking the brains of other guys on the team, like Chone [Figgins]. They're always there for me if I need any advice." Hunter said he went to equipment manager Ken Higdon during Spring Training and asked that Kendrick be moved next to him at Angel Stadium after reading a story on MLB.com in which Kendrick expressed a desire to shadow his every move. "I really appreciated what he said about me, how he respects me and wants to pattern some things after me," Hunter said. "He's a young guy who really wants to learn and get better. I know what that's like. I went through that when I was a young kid with the Twins, learning everything I could from a guy like Kirby Puckett. "They put me right next to Kirby when I was a Minor Leaguer, in camp, and it was the best thing they could have done for me. You pick up so many things that way, about how to prepare yourself, what to eat, what to avoid, what type of exercises you need to do. "I think Howard has the ability to do some great things in this game, and if I can help him out in any way, I'll be doing my part as a veteran player. That's the way it's always been, the older guys showing the younger guys the way." Hitting behind leadoff man Figgins in the reworked Angels order, Kendrick has been leaning on the veteran third baseman's expertise in terms of working counts, being aware of fluid game situations and looking for baserunning keys. "He's really coming along," said Figgins, who has stolen at least 34 bases each of the past five seasons. "He's making a lot of progress at the plate, especially in laying off certain pitches and being patient. As long as we keep communicating, everything's going to be fine. He has the talent to be a great two-hole hitter, the way he can use the whole field and his ability to consistently put the bat on the ball. "The thing about him is, he really wants to learn and be a good player. There's no reason why he can't." A .306 career hitter, Kendrick has played 72, 88 and 92 games in his three Major League seasons. He's looking to get into the 150 range, at least, this year. "Chone said he wants to play 162," Kendrick said, grinning. "That's a great goal for any player."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.