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06/05/11 2:30 AM ET

Kazmir shows signs of improvement at Triple-A

ANAHEIM -- It took left-hander Scott Kazmir his third start for the Angels' Triple-A affiliate, the Salt Lake Bees, to have an encouraging performance. But true to the old adage, it's better late than never.

Though the 27-year-old was saddled with his third straight loss Friday, he threw six innings and surrendered only two runs on three hits and five walks against Sacramento. He also struck out five batters.

The outing is by far his best performance since being bumped down to the Triple-A level. In his first start, he went just 1 2/3 innings and was hammered for six runs on two hits and four walks.

His second appearance for Salt Lake was slightly longer, but not any better. Kazmir lasted 2 1/3 innings on May 29, giving up 10 runs on six hits and three walks.

"It was kind of a flip of a coin if I was going to be able to get it over the plate," he said after his first start. "It really had no direction and no drive straight to the plate."

Kazmir's fastball reportedly hit as high as 92 mph on Friday. That's a welcome sign to manager Mike Scioscia after Kazmir has hovered around 86-89 for most of the year.

"His last two innings were strong," Scioscia said. "He was about 88-92 with much better command. ... All in all, he got over 100 pitches through six innings and finished very strong."

Kazmir's ERA is a dismal 16.20 through his three starts, but Scioscia and the Angels are still optimistic.

"It's definitely encouraging," Scioscia said. "We'll see him in five more days down there and see if he's still moving forward."

Man of the people: Torii flies into the stands

ANAHEIM -- Despite being 35 years old, not much besides age has changed for Torii Hunter since the nine-time Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner was patrolling center field for the Twins earlier in his career.

On Saturday, the Angels' right fielder not only showed he still has a flare for the dramatic, but he's still willing to sacrifice his body.

Hunter got a great jump on a fourth-inning Ervin Santana breaking ball that the Yankees' Robinson Cano belted deep down the right-field line. It wasn't clear when the ball left the bat if Cano connected well enough to clear the fence, but Hunter had his mind made up: He was going to try his absolute hardest to prevent that.

Hunter's dead sprint brought him near Anaheim's short wall in the right-field corner, which he ended up tumbling over in an impressive but unsuccessful effort to snag the ball. The result left him empty-handed and instead on top of a Yankees fan as he disappeared behind the fence for a few seconds.

The play was one that could have left Hunter with an injury, but he said he was OK, and certainly felt fine enough to crack a joke about it.

"I'm glad the fan let me catch him," Hunter said with a smile. "I hit some guy. His friends were yelling, 'Get off my friend.'"

The Pine Bluff, Ark., native -- who has made a living on robbing home runs throughout his career -- thought he was near the taller wall in right-center.

"Out of my peripheral vision I saw the tall wall and I thought I was there," he said. "I got close to catching it. But the short wall stopped me a little bit and tilted me over. It went out of my reach."

Hunter said he was simply "trying to make a play" for Santana, who, besides surrendering three runs on two Yankees home runs, had a quality outing. Santana went seven innings, allowing just those three runs on seven hits and three walks.

When asked if such plays make him consider changing his style, Hunter swiftly responded with a shake of his head.

"No," he said. "That's what they pay me for. To play hard -- that's the way I play the game. I play hard. I want to win and when a guy's on the mound pitching like that, they appreciate that effort."

Kendrick's return bolsters Angels' lineup

ANAHEIM -- Howard Kendrick hadn't played in 16 days, but for the Angels it seemed a heck of a lot longer than that.

He was activated from the disabled list and went 0-for-3 and was hit by a pitch in the Angels' 3-2 loss to the Yankees at Angel Stadium on Saturday. Kendrick left May 19 against Seattle with tightness in his right hamstring and was placed on the DL.

"I feel good," he said before batting practice on Saturday. "Just getting back in the swing of things is going to be the biggest thing. It's just tough for you to go back in and feel like you're in sync with everybody."

The 27-year-old hit sixth and started in left field, while Bobby Abreu hit third as the club's designated hitter. Meanwhile, Russell Branyan, who had started in all but one of the Angels' games since debuting as a pinch-hitter on May 26, was on the bench.

Before being injured, Kendrick had been by far the team's best hitter. The right-hander's .322 batting average, .520 slugging percentage, and .908 OPS entering Saturday led all Angels hitters and his seven home runs were still the team's third-most. His return gives the Halos even more capabilities on the basepaths, as Kendrick has stolen four bases in six tries.

Manager Mike Scioscia said on multiple occasions that the Angels' lineup has to get better and deeper, and Kendrick's return is "one step" toward accomplishing that. The return of fellow outfielder Vernon Wells -- who is expected to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Inland Empire on Sunday -- could be the next missing piece to the puzzle.

"Howie is key," Scioscia said. "When he's swinging the bat, he can hit anywhere from first to fifth in your lineup. We've definitely missed him for the last couple weeks, that's for sure."

Kendrick's return comes at another opportune time. His career .370 batting average against the Yankees is the best among all active Major Leaguers with a minimum of 150 plate appearances against them.

But the 5-foot-10, 210-pounder dismissed those numbers with his trademark smile

"I don't really think about that stuff," he said. "Whether it's these guys or any other team I just try to look at it the same way. Just go out and play hard. If I'm successful, which we all try to be, then that's the way the game goes. For whatever reason I can't tell you I have any specific thing against [the Yankees]. I guess I just like playing against them."

Bourjos making adjustments after May struggles

ANAHEIM -- Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos hit .300 and knocked in nine runs in the month of April -- not bad for a youngster in his first full year as a big leaguer.

The month of May, however, wasn't nearly as kind. Bourjos hit just .176, and his average for the season dipped to .243.

Fortunately, Bourjos appears to be returning to April form through the first few days of June. The 24-year-old was 2-for-3 and knocked in the go-ahead run in the Halos' 3-2 win over New York on Friday at Angel Stadium.

Bourjos said he thinks the league's increased familiarity with him may have been the biggest reason for his May slump. He tallied only 18 hits during the month.

"I think the league kind of adjusted," he said. "They started throwing me a lot more breaking balls and getting ahead in the count with that and then finished me away with fastballs."

Baseball, of course, is a game of adjustments -- and the Angels' speed demon thinks he's starting to make the right ones to get back on track.

"I think it's swinging at the breaking ball that you can hit instead of swinging at them all," he said. "You can't hit the good breaking ball, it's the one that's hanging that you want to hit."

Bourjos hopes he can build off the performance he had Friday.

"Whenever you're struggling and you go up there and get a couple hits, you always feel good coming in the next day," he said. "You just hope you can carry it over and have good at bats."

Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.