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Howie Kendrick improving on offense, defense

March 4, 2011 | 12:18 pm

Howie Kendrick, like most of the Angels' hitters, struggled at times last season en route to hitting .279 in 158 games, the lowest average of his big-league career. But he also committed a career-high 10 errors. And improving his play on defense has become as much as a priority this spring as has his hitting.

"If you’re playing defense you want to make sure nobody gets a hit. Especially on your side of the field," he said. "If I don’t get any hits that day, I'm trying to take away some hits. If you look at it like that, it’s a competition. We go out and compete and do our best every day and if we turn a lot of double plays, that’s definitely huge for our team."

Through the first week of Cactus League play, Kendrick appears to have made strides on both sides of the ball. At the plate, he was hitting .333 with just one strikeout entering Friday's contest with the Chicago White Sox. And on defense he's helped the Angels turn an American League-leading eight double plays while committing just one error (also best in the league).

"We’ve been getting a lot of ground-ball work. A lot of guys have been working hard," Kendrick said. "And that shows once you take it out to the field. It’s not like we really went out and [said], 'Oh, we have to really dramatically change our defense.' We just want to get better. I feel like this spring we got better. And continue to get better.

"The game’s all about learning. Not only offensively but defensively. The more outs we can get, infield and outfield, that helps our chances of winning. If we can make fewer mistakes, be clean on defense, and let our offense work [it] gives our pitchers the best chance possible."

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.