Howie Kendrick’s rehabilitation from a strained left hamstring took a turn for the better Saturday, and the second baseman will begin a brief minor league rehabilitation assignment today with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.
“It’s a lot better,” said Kendrick, who has been on the disabled list since April 14. “It’s hard to be patient, but I didn’t want to do something stupid that would have set me back even further. If I play hurt, it could blow out on me.”
The Angels, however, were convinced after watching Kendrick run the bases aggressively with virtually no discomfort Saturday that he is ready for game action.
Kendrick, who is batting .500 in 36 at-bats, will probably play one to three games for Rancho Cucamonga, and he’ll see a familiar face on the mound today.
John Lackey (triceps strain) will make his third minor league rehab start today for the Quakes, with a goal of reaching the 75-pitch, five-inning range.
Barring a setback, Lackey would make his final rehab start during an extended spring-training game in Arizona on Friday and make his 2008 Angels debut against the Chicago White Sox on May 14.
Manager Mike Scioscia gave slugger Vladimir Guerrero and his .257 average the day off.
“We want to give Vlad a little break, mentally more than anything,” Scioscia said. “This guy’s been grinding it every day. Right now, he could use a little breather, let some air out and get ready to get back in there.”
Guerrero is hitless in 15 at-bats, and for the first time in his 12-year career, he’s gone five starts without a hit.
He has only three home runs and 14 runs batted in after hitting .300 or better with 25 homers or more for 10 straight seasons and 100 RBIs or more for nine of the last 10 years.
The right fielder sat out a game in mid-April because of a swollen right index finger, but he assured Scioscia during a pregame meeting Saturday that he is physically sound.
“Obviously, that’s the first question,” Scioscia said. “You want to make sure there’s no stiffness or anything causing him to alter stuff at the plate, and that is not the case. He feels great. He’s running very well. We’re very confident he’s healthy. Sometimes it’s good mentally to watch a game and go from there.”
In an effort to lose some weight, center fielder Torii Hunter switched to a predominantly organic diet this spring. When he stepped on a scale Saturday, he was shocked.
“I’ve lost eight pounds since the start of the season,” he said. “It’s working, but too quick. . . . I feel leaner, quicker. It doesn’t affect my power, but my swing still doesn’t feel right.”
It doesn’t look bad -- Hunter is hitting .313 with four homers and 17 RBIs. And that leaner frame looked quick when Hunter swiped second between pitches in the sixth inning Friday night, catching middle infielders Brian Roberts and Luis Hernandez off-guard.
“I’m a hyena, always taking advantage of the weak link,” Hunter said. “I saw the young guy [Hernandez] put his head down twice and said, ‘If he does that again, I’m gone.’ I’ve done that numerous times in my career.”