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Angels Go Powerless Again

On top of missing pitching ace Colon, Kotchman keeps struggling and the slugging void grows worse in a 5-2 setback to the Tigers.

April 26, 2006|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

The Angels were still tied for first place in the American League West after Tuesday night's 5-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers in Angel Stadium, their defense has improved dramatically over the past week after committing 15 errors in the first 15 games, and their bullpen remains one of baseball's best.

But make no mistake: This team has issues, among them the rotation void left by Bartolo Colon's shoulder injury, the void of any kind of offense from first baseman Casey Kotchman, and, as most predicted, an overall power void.

Hector Carrasco, making his second start in place of the 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner, was game for five innings Tuesday night, limiting the Tigers to three runs, but he wilted in the sixth, allowing a pair of singles to lead off the inning.

Both runners eventually scored, Carrasco was charged with five runs and seven hits in five innings, and he now has a 9.00 earned-run average in two starts.

Magglio Ordonez led the Tigers with another big night on Angel turf, hitting a fourth-inning home run and adding two singles. The right fielder is hitting .356 (48 for 135) in 34 games in Angel Stadium with nine homers, 23 runs batted in and 25 runs.

Though Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said Carrasco "didn't pitch as bad as his line score is going to show"-- he would not commit to Carrasco starting next week.

Kevin Gregg, who threw three scoreless innings of relief Tuesday night, could replace Carrasco, and if Colon remains sidelined past his 15-day disabled list stint, as it now appears he will, the Angels could turn to triple-A right-handers Jered Weaver or Chris Bootcheck.

"We'll approach it the same way, we'll see how this week goes and what our needs are over the weekend," Scioscia said. "I thought Hector's stuff picked up. Hopefully he's moving in the right direction."

Kotchman is not.

It would be unfair to pin Tuesday's loss anywhere near Kotchman. Tiger right-hander Jeremy Bonderman was dominating, allowing two runs and three hits and striking out six in six innings, and relievers Jamie Walker, Joel Zumaya and Todd Jones combined for three perfect innings.

The only Angel to make decent contact off Bonderman was Orlando Cabrera, who lined a run-scoring double to left-center in the sixth inning and scored on Garret Anderson's groundout to pull the Angels within 5-2.

But Kotchman's slide continued with a fielder's choice in the second, a three-pitch strikeout in the fifth and a well-struck fly ball to center in the seventh. The 23-year-old is hitless in his last 17 at-bats and is three for 32 in his last 11 games, his average sinking to .148 (9 for 61) this season.

The Angels do not appear ready to give up on Kotchman, who in 126 at-bats hit .278 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs last season, but Robb Quinlan, who is not as smooth defensively but has a more lethal bat, could cut into Kotchman's playing time.

Hard-hitting second-base prospect Howie Kendrick, called up from triple-A Salt Lake on Monday, has also been taking a lot of ground balls at third in batting practice, which could foretell another possible solution -- moving Darin Erstad from center field back to first, third baseman Chone Figgins to center and Kendrick to third.

"He's working hard with Mickey [Hatcher, Angel batting instructor] trying to slow the game down a bit," Scioscia said of Kotchman. "He got a little jumpy on a few pitches tonight."

Power was not expected to be an overall Angel strength, and it hasn't been -- the Angels rank 10th in the league with 20 home runs in 21 games and have only two homers in eight home games.

"We haven't done as much as we need to," Scioscia said, "but as we're waiting for guys to start driving the ball on a consistent basis, other parts of our game are doing well."

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