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Kennedy leaving on good terms

Times Staff Writer

As far as divorces go, this one wasn’t nearly as messy as Angels-Bengie Molina.

Bill Stoneman, the Angels general manager, phoned Adam Kennedy this week to inform the second baseman he wouldn’t be retained, that the team was handing his job to Howie Kendrick, and what ensued, Kennedy said, was “a real pleasant conversation.”

Last January, Molina, who spent 6 1/2 seasons as the Angels catcher, ripped the team after signing with the Toronto Blue Jays, saying the Angels “threw me [out] like a piece of trash.”

Though Stoneman challenged Molina’s claims the Angels let him go “without notice, without calling me,” saying he spoke with agent Alan Nero before and after the decision was made to let the catcher go -- an account Nero confirmed -- Stoneman was determined not to allow even a hint of acrimony to soil Kennedy’s departure.

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“We both shared an appreciation for what each had done for the other,” Kennedy said of Stoneman, who acquired Kennedy from St. Louis in the first trade he made as Angels GM in 2000. “It was nice to get the call.”

It was hardly a surprise, with Kendrick coming on strong.

“I would have been 100% shocked if it went the other way,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been prepared so long for this, that for me, it was an everyday phone call.”

Though some Angels, particularly pitcher John Lackey, questioned the wisdom of letting the second baseman go, Kennedy, who has drawn interest from several teams, leaves with no bitterness.

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He will be remembered in Anaheim as an outstanding defensive player who hit three home runs in the 2002 American League Championship Series-clinching win over Minnesota and was an integral part of the 2002 World Series championship.

“We made the transition from an organization that maybe wasn’t quite first class to one that is dominant now,” Kennedy said. “The fans have come full circle. It was great to be a part of that.”

With Kennedy leaving, Tim Salmon retired and Darin Erstad a free agent, is Kennedy saddened to see the further erosion of the 2002 club?

“Well, at least we got to watch some of it win another championship,” Kennedy said, alluding to former Angels David Eckstein and Scott Spiezio, who helped St. Louis beat Detroit in this year’s World Series.

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Though free-agent slugger Barry Bonds reportedly would prefer to play for an American League club close to his Beverly Hills home, the Angels, according to several sources, have no plans to pursue the controversial outfielder who needs 22 home runs to break Hank Aaron’s all-time record of 755.

The only way the Angels would consider the 42-year-old Bonds, who has achy knees, a sore elbow and is under federal investigation for perjury and tax evasion, is if they fail in their efforts to acquire a big bat through free agency or trade, and Bonds is still available in February.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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