New Dodgers second baseman Howie Kendrick quickly finds comfort zone
If Howie Kendrick wondered how he would fit in with a new team after nine seasons with the Angels, those questions have been answered less than a month into his first spring with the Dodgers.
Standing in the middle of the clubhouse Tuesday, Kendrick wore a wide smile as he dodged candy bars and gum thrown his way by Yasiel Puig while Jimmy Rollins playfully blamed Kendrick for the cut on his knee.
“I’ve just been enjoying it,” said Kendrick, who had two hits, including a massive home run, in an 11-11 tie with the Texas Rangers. “Getting to know everybody, playing with everybody. It’s awesome. Everybody gets along.
“There’s always some kind of antic going on every day. Those are things you need to keep everything relaxed and loose.”
Kendrick, a former American League All-Star at second base, has spent much of his bonding time with Rollins, his shortstop and a former National League most valuable player who is also new to the Dodgers after playing 15 seasons for the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I think it’s a little overdone. But we like them to be comfortable with each other, that’s for sure,” Manager Don Mattingly said of the importance of a personal relationship between the members of his double-play combo.
“They’ve played enough that they get that communication out of the way pretty early. Guys do so much work together nowadays it gets comfortable pretty quick.”
Rollins, who also had two hits Tuesday, is batting .400 this spring; Kendrick is hitting .364. And they’ve combined to score seven runs and drive in seven. Kendrick has the lone error between them.
“I just know he can hit,” Mattingly said of Kendrick, who has a .292/.332/.424 career slash line. “Howie consistently gets good at-bats. And that’s really what we’re looking for.”
Kendrick also showed some power Tuesday, driving on 0-2 pitch an estimated 440 feet to dead center in the fifth inning for his first home run in a Dodgers uniform.
“I actually kind of think I missed it a little bit but it ended up going out of the yard. I guess the wind was blowing today,” Kendrick said, a humble explanation Rollins, listening from the adjoining locker, couldn’t let go.
“In other words,” Rollins teased, “I’ve never hit one that well before.”
Closer Kenley Jansen’s comeback from February surgery on his left foot took a big step forward Tuesday when he abandoned his crutches for a walking boot, allowing him to begin playing catch.
Jansen, who will start the season on the disabled list, had been soft tossing with his left knee resting on a chair. With the boot on, he was able to throw about 60 feet.
Ryu gets backing
Hyun-Jin Ryu’s spring got off to a slow start because of back tightness that so concerned the Dodgers an MRI exam was performed. And while Ryu struggled a bit in his second outing, allowing three runs (two earned) and three hits in three innings Tuesday, the left-hander said his back is no longer an issue.
Mattingly agreed after watching Ryu bounce off the mound to make a play on a bunt in the third inning.
“I don’t think he has any issues with the back at all, " Mattingly said. “He was really pretty good today.”
Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11
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