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ANGELS FYI

He seems to have both sides covered

June 04, 2008|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

SEATTLE -- Maybe Tom Kotchman, in his 25th season as an Angels scout and minor league manager, should have started filing reports on his son a little earlier.

Had he done so, Manager Mike Scioscia might not have benched Casey Kotchman, the Angels' left-handed-hitting first baseman, so often against lefties the last few years.

"I remember in Little League, my first hit was off a left-hander, a single up the middle," Kotchman recalled. "I was 9 years old."

Kotchman is still hitting left-handers, only with a lot more regularity. He's batting .417 (20 for 48) against lefties and .319 with six home runs and 30 runs batted in overall.

Kotchman hit .315 against left-handers last season but got only 73 at-bats against them, usually yielding to Robb Quinlan against lefties.

"When you get an opportunity, you try to make the most of it," Kotchman said. "I'm just trying to put the barrel of the bat on the ball and find a hole. Any time a guy is throwing left-handed, I'm trying to [get my swing] shorter and more direct to the baseball."

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Kotchman, who has never hit more than 11 home runs in a big league or minor league season, hit his sixth home run on April 23, spawning questions about his sudden power surge.

Thirty-six games later, Kotchman is searching for home run No. 7.

Not that he's concerned. Kotchman leads the team in RBIs, ranks second with 12 doubles and has a .370 on-base percentage.

"When I ran into six homers the first month, I wasn't doing anything different," Kotchman said. "The difference between a pop fly, a grounder or a home run is a fraction of an inch on the bat, a millisecond of timing.

"It's not a big deal. If I wasn't getting hits or home runs, then it's a big deal."

Kotchman also has provided Gold Glove-caliber defense.

"Kotch has been the MVP of the first two months of the season," Scioscia said. "He's saved countless runs with his glove, and he's having a great year in the batter's box."

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Remember the first week of spring-training games, when Seattle Manager John McLaren played all of his regulars in what he hoped would be a message-sending exhibition against the Angels? "We want to be shaking hands after we play them," McLaren said.

McLaren sang a different tune before Tuesday's game, with the Mariners, picked by many to win the American League West, buried in last place -- 14 1/2 games behind the division-leading Angels after losing to them Tuesday night.

"My goal is to win each series and get to .500; it's not catching the Angels right now," McLaren said. "We've got to do certain things first and forget about winning eight of 10 games."

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Vladimir Guerrero sat out his second straight game Tuesday because of a sore right knee, which he injured sliding into third on Sunday, and he could sit out today's series finale.

"He feels much better, but we want him to improve his range of motion, it's still a little stiff," Scioscia said. "It's possible he can play [today]. At the latest, he'll play Friday."

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Setup man Scot Shields (left rib-cage injury) was unavailable for a second straight game but said he felt better. . . . Third baseman Chone Figgins, on the disabled list because of a right hamstring strain, ran aggressively Tuesday and could begin running the bases in the next day or two.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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