There were high expectations for Howie Kendrick when the Los Angeles Dodgers acquired the veteran infielder prior to the 2015 season. Replacing All-Star Dee Gordon, Kendrick lived up to the reputation he established throughout a steady Major League career.
He batted .295/.336/.409 with nine home runs and 54 RBIs while playing a steady second base. Kendrick gave the Dodgers a strong veteran presence up the middle with Jimmy Rollins at shortstop, and helped usher Corey Seager along come September.
After rejecting the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer and going through a somewhat surprisingly offseason, Kendrick re-signed with the Dodgers on a two-year contract. However, it came after the club re-signed Chase Utley and acquired Micah Johnson in a three-team trade.
In returning to Los Angeles, the plan called for Kendrick to see some time at third base. That’s since expanded to the 33-year-old receiving the bulk of starts in left field.
According to Mike DiGiovanna of the LA Times, Kendrick recently said he’s still trying to improve on his defense:
“My approach was to make all the routine plays, not make any mistakes, and if mistakes do happen, they’re part of the game,” said Kendrick, an 11-year veteran who spent almost nine seasons with the Angels as a second baseman. “You try to learn from them and keep moving forward.”
Given that the 11-year veteran has played first base, second base, third base and left field this season, he works prior to each game at the position he’s starting:
“I try to focus on whatever position I’m playing that day,” he said. “When I’m playing second, I work out there; if I’m in the outfield, I work out there. It’s too hard mentally to try to prepare to play three positions.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts praised Kendrick’s defense in left field late last month and has regularly credited him for accepting a role that’s in the best interest of the team.
Prior to this season Kendrick had only played 26 games in left field, with 23 of those coming in 2011. There was some speculation being away from his natural position correlated to Kendrick slumping at the plate.
He’s since turned his fortunes around and is in the midst of a 16-game hitting streak. On the season Kendrick is batting .274/.334/.395 with 16 doubles, six home runs and 24 RBIs.