04/18/11 8:30 PM ET
Kazmir takes new approach back to mound
By Lyle Spencer / MLB.com
Angels' Izturis surpassing leadoff expectations
ARLINGTON -- Maicer Izturis is a man with a plan. The early returns for the Angels' leadoff man are beyond successful. They're a little stunning.Entering the Angels' three-game series with the defending American League champion Rangers on Monday, Izturis was second in the league with a .383 batting average, trailing only the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez (.385). Izturis through Sunday was tied for the league lead with 23 hits and seven multihit games. Moving from third to shortstop to second base, depending on the day's need, he has been playing his customary superb defense. The most meaningful of Izturis' numbers is his .403 on-base percentage. With Howard Kendrick and Bobby Abreu behind him, the soft-spoken Venezuelan has formed the best top-of-the-order grouping since Chone Figgins was the leadoff catalyst for the 2009 wrecking crew. "Izzy is working counts, going 3-2, then driving the ball hard," said cleanup hitter Torii Hunter. "It's fun when you come up and he's already on second base. You know you're going to see everything that pitcher has by the second time through the lineup, because Izzy is working the count. You're going to see his fastball, changeup, breaking ball. "That's a leadoff guy. That's what we were missing when he was gone for three months [with injuries] last year. People don't realize how valuable that little guy is. I call him 'The Energizer Bunny.' That's what he does for us." Izturis is not one to toot his own instrument, but he knows what he's capable of doing when his body cooperates and he's in the lineup on a regular basis. "I've always liked leading off," he said. "It gets you in the game right away. I try to work counts, see as many pitches as I can, in my first two at-bats. Then I go up with a more aggressive approach. I like to see at least four pitches if I can that first at-bat especially. That way the guys behind me can see what the pitcher is throwing." Kendrick, hitting .306 with a .386 OBP and .613 slugging mark, is benefiting from Izturis' selectivity. Abreu (.291/.435/.400) also is off to a strong start, the top third fueling an offense that has outscored the opposition by 12 runs through a 10-5 start.
Downs back on his feet
ARLINGTON -- Scott Downs, having lost six pounds with a virus that kept him confined to the team hotel in Chicago, was back in uniform with the Angels for an afternoon workout on Monday before heading to the hotel to rest.Like teammate and fellow former Blue Jay, Vernon Wells, Downs has had a less-than-enjoyable start with the Angels after signing a three-year deal in December. A fractured big toe had the veteran southpaw on the disabled list to start the season. Activated on April 10, Downs made his debut a day later and worked a perfect inning. He made one more appearance, getting two outs while allowing a hit, before the virus surfaced. In Toronto, he was a study in endurance. In 237 2/3 innings pitched since 2007, his 2.35 ERA is the best among left-handed relievers in the Majors.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.