Kendrick to return; Lackey improving

Kendrick to return; Lackey improving

John Lackey is close to rejoining the Angels, but Howie Kendrick is on his way to Kansas City to join the Halos, who will open a three-game series against the Royals on Monday night.

Lackey has been on the disabled list since the start of the season with a strained right triceps. He threw 68 pitches (42 strikes) over a four-inning start for the Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on Sunday.

The right-hander struck out four, walked one, hit two batters and threw one wild pitch against the Lancaster JetHawks. He was to throw between 75 and 80 pitches, but he was removed after completing the top of the fourth.

"It's all about pitch count now," said Lackey, who led American League pitchers in 2007 with a 3.01 ERA. "My arm felt fine. My location was better today, and I had a good heater."

Kendrick, the Angels starting second baseman who has been on the disabled list since April 14 with a strained left hamstring, started at second for the Quakes. He looked sharp, hitting two hard singles to left after grounding out to short in the first. More importantly, he showed no pain while playing defense and running the bases.

Kendrick showed he was ready in the third inning when he slid into second to break up a double play. When the throw from JetHawks second baseman Chih-Hsien Chaing sailed into left field, Kendrick got right up and raced to third.

"I got a call from [Angels general manager] Tony Reagins on Saturday and he said to get Kendrick a couple of at-bats and play five innings," said Rancho Cucamonga manager Ever Magallanes. "[Kendrick] is a great hitter. He got out of the box well all three times."

Kendrick moved quickly to catch a plane to Kansas City after being replaced by pinch-runner Tadd Brewer in the bottom of the fifth. Before going on the disabled list, Kendrick was 18-for-36 (.500).

Lackey's velocity improved over his last two starts. He expects that he won't make the Angels' seven-day road trip to Kansas City and Tampa, but would rejoin the team when the Angels return home May 12 to start a three-game series against the White Sox.

"I'll probably pitch a six-inning start in Arizona," said Lackey. "I'll just try to fit in the mix when I return to the team -- they are doing pretty well."

Despite not having Lackey and Kelvin Escobar, who won 18 games last year but is on the 60-day disabled list with a torn right labrium, the Angels lead the American League West by one game over Oakland. The Halos have a 20-13 record, which ties the Boston Red Sox for the most wins in the AL.

George Alfano is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.