Howie Kendrick is a low-profile spark plug for the Angels

Second baseman contributes in a big way to the Angels, but does it all in a quiet and unassuming fashion.

Bill Dwyre

2:12 AM EDT, July 4, 2013


For the Angels, Howie Kendrick is more than just a player. He is a comfort zone, thesugar in your candy bar. You don't worry about him being there because he always is.

He is more than just a second baseman. He is the streetlight on your corner, the guy in the toll booth, the kid at Subway who puts the cheese on your turkey.

He is taken for granted. Proof of that is that nobody thinks about it. If you don't even think about taking somebody for granted, you are.

Home game after home game, the Angels faithful parade through the big gate under the big red cap. They are beckoned by huge pictures of Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, Jered Weaver, Mike Trout, C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. Those are the big names, the big boomers.

Kendrick is a line drive in the gap, a grounder up the middle. Pictures 30 feet high don't often celebrate the little stuff.

That, of course, could be a problem if Kendrick were a different kind of person, if he had even the standard amount of prima donna DNA of a major league player. But he's not.

“I kind of like that,” he says. “I like being under the radar. I'm not the kind of person to call attention to myself. I just go about my business. I'm never gonna be one of those look-at-me guys.”

Well, if Kendrick won't look at himself, we will.

Baseball is a numbers game, and here are some of his, going into Wednesday night's 12-2, winning-streak-ending stinker at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals.

He was batting .323, best on the team.

He had 102 hits, most ever by an Angels second baseman at the All-Star break time (with nine games still to play after Wednesday night).

He had nine home runs. Last year, he hit a total of eight.

He was batting .324 against left-handers and .322 against right-handers.

He was batting .371 at home.

He had 36 hits in the month of June.

He had 12 games with three hits, tied for first in the major leagues. That included his three-for-four in the Tuesday night win that extended the streak to seven.

His nine home runs before the All-Star break are the most for an Angels second baseman since Rex Hudler in 1996. (Not only a good stat, but a shout-out for the Wonder Dog.)

Kendrick grew up in Florida and was pretty much ignored even on the junior college baseball level. Actually, he wasn't ignored. He just got cut from teams a lot. Then he was discovered by scout Tom Kotchman, the father of former Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman. Tom Kotchman found Kendrick at that hotbed of junior college baseball, St. John's River Community College in Palatka, Fla.

The Angels picked him in the 10th round of the 2002 draft, and his climb into the majors, and into his role as quiet anchorman in the Angels infield, has been a steady one, with the exception of a demotion to triple-A Salt Lake in 2009.

When he came back up later that season, he hit .358 and has never looked back.

“I had to get rid of some of the voices,” Kendrick says. “Everybody had an opinion, an idea of what you are doing wrong.”

Now, at 29, he is in the second year of a four-year contract that is worth $33.5 million. Not Pujols-Hamilton money, but it will pay the bills.

Also now, he gets mentioned in the same sentence as the likes of Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia.

“I like that when I hear it,” Kendrick says. “I think they are great players, and I respect what they do and how hard they work to do it.”

Wednesday night was a pause in the progress for both Kendrick and the Angels. The winning streak ended ugly, as the Angels continued their trend of playing nursery rhyme baseball. When they are good, they are very, very good. When they are bad, they are horrid.

It was still daylight when starter Jerome Williams was yanked amid a deluge of red-hot Cardinals bats. Those sent in from the Angels bullpen to douse the flames brought, instead, more kerosene.

Kendrick? His night wasn't much better than his team's. He finished 0-4, striking out twice.

The game was as long as it was ugly, so Manager Mike Scioscia tossed in the white flag late in the game, substituting for Trout, Hamilton and Erick Aybar. That brought, among other things, the oddity of three left-handed-throwing outfielders in J.B. Shuck, Collin Cowgill and Brad Hawpe. Also, the oddity of a Cowgill, batting cleanup with a batting average of .000.

Kendrick stayed in, at second base, where he will be Thursday night, Friday night and on and on. The crowd was 35,025. Some of them may have even noticed.