TEMPE, Ariz. -- This is hard to fathom. Howard Joseph Kendrick III actually had a slump in the Minors. It is true. Believe it. Yes, the same Howie Kendrick who hit .367 in the past two Minor League seasons, .368 in 2003 and .318 in 2002 in the Arizona Rookie League after the Angels picked him in the 10th round of the First-Year Player Draft out of St. John's River Community College in Palatka, Fla. Kendrick was sent to Provo, the Angels' Advanced Rookie club in the Pioneer League in 2003. He began the season 4-for-40. "I've experienced a slump before," Kendrick said on Saturday. "That was the lowest point for me. It was tough times, but your teammates help you through those times. "I was at the point, to where like, 'Oh my goodness, what is wrong with my swing, what is this and that?' Now that I'm older, I know it is more of a mental thing. It wasn't really anything in my mechanics, but I'm glad I experienced it because I learned from it." There's a baseball proverb that one can learn the most about a young player once he experiences failure and how he reacts. Kendrick responded after that sordid start to hit .428 in July and August and won the league batting title with a .367 average. His final 2005 totals at Double-A Arkansas and Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga: .367, the second-highest mark in the Minors, with 104 runs, 43 doubles, eight triples, 19 home runs, 89 RBIs and 25 stolen bases. In short, Kendrick is a hitting machine. "I wouldn't say that so much," Kendrick said and grinned. "Hopefully, I'll stay ahead in the count and try to hit early in the count. I think I'm just more of an aggressive-style hitter. My hand-eye coordination is pretty good. For the most part, you have to have the ability to hit and it is a thinking game, too. You have to have an idea of what to look for at the plate, here and there.
"For the most part, you kind of sit on the hard stuff and when they start throwing you soft stuff, you've got to adjust," continued Kendrick. "It is all about making adjustments and if you can do that, you'll be a good hitter. As far as hitting goes, I've always been able to do that."Kendrick, who his hitting .263 in eight March games, is focusing on defense in camp. "I just try to learn about everything, try to get as much insight because being here in Spring Training, you get an opportunity to be around all these guys and it is your one chance to try to learn from them."
Briefly: Cuban defector Kendry Morales is 8-for-21 with a .571 slugging percentage. ... Highly touted pitching prospect Chris Bootcheck is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his first five innings. ... Casey Kotchman is hitting .412.
Alan Eskew is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.