Kendrick consistent as ever with Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- Howie Kendrick -- Howard to family members and close friends -- retains warm feelings for the Angels, his original organization. But he still did everything in his power over the weekend to torment them.
Kendrick, Mr. Consistency, is doing all the fine things for the Dodgers that he did for the Angels across nine seasons. On Sunday, he followed two exceptional efforts against his former teammates with one more, crushing a two-run homer and a double while making all the plays at second base in a 5-3 victory in 10 innings that completed the Dodgers' Interleague sweep.
"It's been a lot of fun," Kendrick said on his way to Philadelphia for a series that opens Tuesday night. "It's always good seeing guys I care so much about."
Kendrick's slash line of .288/.335/.413 is right on his career norm, and his defense has been characteristically solid, at times spectacular. He robbed old buddies Erick Aybar and Mike Trout of hits over the weekend with highlight stabs.
Even if this is his lone season in Chavez Ravine, Kendrick -- an impending free agent -- will have left a distinct impression. He hopes the best is yet to come: a trip to a triumphant World Series. Kendrick's 2015 goal matches those of all the preceding seasons.
"I just play the game," Kendrick said when asked about all the adjustments involved with a new team and league. "Just go out on the field and play baseball. I'm here to play the game the right way and help my team win any way I can.
"You've got to trust yourself; that's the biggest thing. You've got to ride it out when you're having a tough time, knowing you'll turn it around. I've been fortunate to play with some great teammates and learn from them.
"I try to tell young guys who are struggling that it's OK, that two or three years from now, they'll look back on their struggles and say, 'I had to go through that to figure things out.' It's all part of the process."
After nine seasons with the Angels, Kendrick was dealt down Interstate 5 in December, a swap that sent lefty Andrew Heaney to Anaheim.
A resident of Phoenix with his wife, Jody, and sons Owen and Tyson, Kendrick acknowledges that in this business of constant player movement, he's been lucky to have uncommon continuity with just two managers and three partners in the middle of the infield.
Mike Scioscia and Don Mattingly have raved about Kendrick's consistency across the board. Debuting in 2006 primarily as a first baseman for the Angels, Kendrick moved to his natural position in '07, blending seamlessly with shortstops Orlando Cabrera and Aybar.
"Erick and I are like brothers," Kendrick said of his double-play partner for seven seasons. "We came up through the system together and knew each other so well.
"Now I've got Jimmy Rollins, and that's huge. He's a National League guy. He knows the hitters, so I'm always leaning on him. We clicked right from the start of Spring Training.
"Stability is huge. Even though I've never played National League baseball, I've played against these guys [in Interleague series] a long time. They're great dudes."
Kendrick and Zack Greinke were Angels teammates in 2012. Kendrick calls Clayton Kershaw "the hardest worker on the team," adding, "Clayton's a lot like Mike [Trout]. Both guys work so hard and are great teammates. That's why they've got so much respect inside the game, from other players."
Kendrick remains in contact with Trout, Albert Pujols and Torii Hunter, buddies from Anaheim.
"Torii is like our big brother," Kendrick said. "He's always in touch with Mike and me. We both sat next to him, and he taught us so much. Same thing with Albert. We text each other."
Kendrick, who signed a four-year, $33.5 million contract in 2012 that takes him through this season, said he won't think about free agency until the time comes.
"I'll just keep playing and focus on the game every day, the way I always have," Kendrick said.
Kendrick and Rollins have given the Dodgers a major upgrade in the heart of their defense, but the club could have an entirely new look next year. Rollins also is in the last year of his contract.
Super-prospect Corey Seager is being groomed at shortstop, and a highly regarded 21-year-old second baseman, Jose Peraza, came from the Braves in last week's three-team blockbuster trade.
Should the Angels bid to bring him back, Kendrick's sons no doubt would be thrilled to see their dad playing with Trout again.
"My kids love Mike," Kendrick said. "Who doesn't? He's the best player in the game -- and a great guy."
Between the lines, though, as Kendrick demonstrated all weekend, friendships cease.