DETROIT -- The Angels' top hitters can expect to get a few days off here and there, as Torii Hunter did on Saturday in Detroit. But manager Mike Scioscia would ideally like his best positional players to start between 140-150 games per year. And Scioscia admits that he has to carefully look at where and when players like Hunter, Hideki Matsui, Kendry Morales and Bobby Abreu might sit.
"Those guys need to play a lot," Scioscia said. "We look at where it makes sense in the long run, such as a day game coming off a night game on the road."
The goal is to keep the Angels' regulars strong throughout the year. However, Los Angeles also wants to put the best lineup it can on the field, Scioscia said.
"If you keep taking one guy out here and there, that's less time when you have your best hitters all in there together," Scioscia said. "You want balance and consistency and you want your guys in there that give you the best chance to win."
Another one of those players is Howard Kendrick, who Scioscia moved to second in the batting order Saturday with Hunter sitting out. Kendrick is a player who could have the flexibility to hit almost anywhere in the lineup, Scioscia said, a statement that gives the infielder a tremendous amount of confidence.
"It's good to hear your manager say such good things about you," Kendrick said. "We've talked about ways that I have improved, and to hear [Scioscia] say that I could hit anywhere in the lineup makes me feel a bit more secure.
"I don't have a major preference where I hit in the lineup, whether it is at the top or bottom. I just look every day to see where and if I'm playing."
When regulars do get the day off, there isn't one specific reason, Scioscia said. He and his coaching staff make the decisions on a case-by-case basis.
"It's less about pitching matchups and more about how a guy feels," Scioscia said. "There's no one determining factor."
Slumping starters no concern for Angels
DETROIT -- With a mix of experienced veterans still in their prime, the Angels' starting rotation is expected to be a strength as the season progresses. The early returns have been a bit inconsistent, but Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia isn't contemplating any changes.
"We haven't seen the level of consistency we want or expect, but that doesn't change our evaluation of what we have," Scioscia said. "We have good arms down there with really good talent. I feel confident that we will see the rotation more in line with what we saw at the end of last year, when we were really going well."
Scott Kazmir had arguably his best outing of the young season Saturday, going six strong innings while allowing just one earned run in a no-decision. Kazmir dropped his ERA to 5.57 in the process and similar improvements from his fellow rotation members should help the Angels to get back above .500.
"I think I will be able to build on this performance, because I felt comfortable attacking the strike zone," Kazmir said. "If as a starter I can minimize damage and keep us in the game, I have confidence that our offense can pick it up."
What Los Angeles' pitchers need to continue working on is pitching to contact rather than trying to be too fine away from contact, said Angels' catcher Mike Napoli.
"We've had few walks lately, which is encouraging," Napoli said. "Our starters are going to be fine. They have to stay within themselves and continue to get ahead of batters. We certainly have the talent and experience to be a very good rotation."
Rodney, Jespen getting plenty of work
DETROIT -- Thus far manager, Mike Scioscia has had to rely on setup men Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen quite a bit, particularly in games that the Angels have won. Through Saturday, Jepsen had pitched in 14 games and Rodney 13, with Jepsen leading the American League with seven holds. Rodney, meanwhile, is limiting opponents to a .122 batting average.
"We haven't been able to give a lot of those guys a breather this year and both guys have pitched a lot," Scioscia said.
That has led the Angels' coaching staff to conclude that both Jepsen and Rodney are likely going to pitch just one inning at a time. It is possible from time to time that the one or both pitchers could go more than an inning, but it would likely be before or after off-days, or during circumstances of very low pitch counts. Even then, Scioscia would prefer to let his two setup men concentrate on just getting three outs.
"Last year, we had [Jepsen] stay in there now and then to get a fourth out, and at times he didn't seem quite as crisp in that second inning," Scioscia said. "They haven't thrown a high number of pitches yet this season, but [their high number of appearances] is something that we do have to watch."
Joe Saunders, who will start Monday, had a good bullpen session Saturday, according to manager Mike Scioscia. Through five starts the lefty has 10 strikeouts and 10 walks in 26 2/3 innings. "Joe hasn't quite found his balance of command and movement," Scioscia said. "There are some mechanical things he is trying to figure out. He needs to get his coordination of his delivery in sync." ... With the Red Sox and the Angels having faced each other in playoffs the past three years, and four times since 2004, there may be added anticipation for the upcoming series in Boston starting Monday. But Scioscia doesn't consider the Red Sox a major rival. "Rivalries are born out of geographical and intra-divisional teams and games," Scioscia said. "It's not exactly the Red Sox and Yankees." ... Fernando Rodney continues to be on a roll for the Angels. He is 2-0 with two holds, five saves and zero runs allowed over his past 10 2/3 innings with eight strikeouts. Rodney received a mix of cheers and boos when he entered the game Saturday afternoon in Detroit, where he pitched from 2002-09. ... Reggie Willits started in place of Juan Rivera in left field on Sunday.
Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.