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ANGELS NOTEBOOK: ERSTAD LIKES ROOKIE.

Byline: DOUG PADILLA Staff Writer

ANAHEIM -- The last Angels player to reinvent himself at first base likes what he sees in the most current project, Howie Kendrick.

Darin Erstad had the entire 1997 spring training to learn the infield and took over the spot with the Angels that season, as he made an Opening Day roster for the first time.

Kendrick, on the other hand, is not only in the major leagues for the first time, he was moved to first base for the first time on any level as the Angels look to get some offense out of the position.

``He didn't even get to practice, they just threw him in there,'' Erstad said. ``To be in the middle of a playoff chase, to be playing a new position and to be hitting like he's doing, he's doing a heck of a job.

``He's going to be just fine over there. He's a heck of an athlete. You have to go through some things, see new stuff and he'll make the adjustment.''

Kendrick has not disappointed with his bat. He was batting .338 before Thursday's game and was batting .458 (22 for 48) on a 12-game hitting streak.

The Angels' entire infield is now made up of middle infielders, with Maicer Izturis playing at third.

Kendrick has been shaky at times and serviceable at others. He booted a grounder for a two-base error Wednesday, lost track of a runner heading to the plate and didn't take charge on a popup on the infield that catcher Jose Molina could not handle.

``The kid is willing to learn everything,'' Erstad said. ``He's been put in a tough spot but he's doing a great job. It's not easy to do that.''

Still sidelined: Bartolo Colon still has not thrown a ball since pitching one inning July 26 at Tampa Bay, and his chances of starting next Friday at New York are dwindling. Colon is on the disabled list with elbow tendinitis.

``As of right now I don't think we know one way or another, but things would obviously have to pick up over the weekend and we'll evaluate him and see where he is,'' manager Mike Scioscia said.

Back in action: Dallas McPherson, who has dealt with two bouts of back spasms since June 22, is back on the field at Triple-A Salt Lake. In his first rehab assignment, McPherson was playing some first base in anticipation of a move there with the Angels, but he was injured again.

Scioscia said McPherson is feeling much better and is curious to see how he produces in games.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 4, 2006
Words:434
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