Notes: Angels' Kendrick adjusting
Big battle still ongoing for final spots on pitching staff
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Sometimes the most important things you can do to improve your game for a new season have nothing to do with conditioning, swing mechanics, or your approach at the plate.
Sometimes it's all in your head.
Ask Howie Kendrick what the biggest thing he was able to take away from his time in the Major Leagues last season and that's what he'll tell you.
"I started to understand the mental part of the game at the big-league level," said the Angels second baseman. "It's all about the way you think and the way you make adjustments. The quicker you can make those adjustments the better off you'll be.
"Pitchers will make them just as fast as you do," Kendrick continued. "It's a cat-and-mouse game. So the way you do it is to be prepared mentally as well as physically. I faltered a little bit at doing that last year."
However, Kendrick was quick to stress there is only so much you can pick up right away.
"Really the only way you can learn about that is by playing," said the man who hit .361 in over 1,400 Minor League at-bats. "The more you play, the more aware you are. You're always trying to find that balance between pitch selection and aggression. The more I play the better I'll find it."
Kendrick also had to learn to make adjustments last season while focusing on a new position, as team needs forced the Angels to ask him to learn first base temporarily. He's happy to be back at second.
"I've played second all the way through the Minors," he said. "It's just different when you go to another position, so it's nice to be back where I'm comfortable."
Manager Mike Scioscia singled out Kendrick when asked about the younger players on the team, and while acknowledging that "he can swing the bat," was quick to point out Kendrick's improvement in the field despite making his first error of the spring in Sunday's game.
"The way his defense has picked up has been impressive," Scioscia said. "He's working well with [shortstop Orlando] Cabrera. Those guys have a put a lot of time in and they're getting comfortable."
First-base coach Alfredo Griffin has been working with Kendrick on his glove, and Scioscia commented, "Alfredo is very happy with where [Kendrick's] defense is."
Whatever Kendrick has done to prepare himself for his first full season in the big leagues, it seems to be paying off early in camp as he is currently hitting .500 (12-for-24).
He's going to try and not be too hard on himself if he gets in a rut from time to time: "I need to remember that we fail 70 percent of the time and we're still good."
Bullpen battle: If Jered Weaver (biceps tendinitis) is healthy enough to go on Opening Day, which would allow Hector Carrasco to start in the 'pen, that will leave just one spot up for grabs on the 11-man pitching staff, with Scioscia stressing that keeping 12 pitchers was not an option.
"So much will hinge on what's happening with our starters," the manager said. "We're trying to establish the starting rotation -- that's more important than the 11th man -- but if we take someone out to start [out of the 'pen], that will have a cascading effect."
As many as seven pitchers are looking for that one slot, with Dustin Moseley, Marc Gwyn and Chris Bootcheck singled out as potential options that meet the criteria and that are capable of starting if the need arises. Moseley may have the inside track as the other two players would need to be added to the 40-man roster. Phil Seibel, Greg Jones and Chris Resop are also in the mix as pure bullpen arms.
Although the projected starting lineup was playing in the split-squad game in Tempe on Sunday afternoon, Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher were making the trip to Surprise for the the team's other game against Texas. Scioscia stated that he wanted to get a look at the Rangers, but he hinted at other reasons, presumably to watch Moseley start the game -- where he threw five shutout innings -- and see Bootcheck and Jones in relief.
Saunders not concerned: The closer Bartolo Colon (torn rotator cuff last season) gets to pitching in a game means the closer Joe Saunders might come to losing a rotation slot, but Saunders -- who allowed one run in four innings on Sunday -- appeared not to be worried.
"That's they way life goes," said the southpaw. "I just have to go out there and get guys out and let the chips fall where they may."
Quick hits: Scioscia said that if all goes well with Weaver's 10-minute simulated game session on Monday, the right-hander could see game action in about 10 days. ... The team reassigned pitchers Ryan Aldridge, Nick Green and Kasey Olenberger to Minor League camp.
Up next: The Halos will take the full squad to Surprise, Ariz., to take on the Kansas City Royals. Carrasco will make his third start of the spring as the team stretches him out in case he is needed for the rotation in early April. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PT.
Jason Grey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.