Surge by Kotchman May Not Be Enough

Times Staff Writer

Just when it seemed like the moment that epitomized Casey Kotchman’s first major league stint might have been when he became the victim of Pedro Martinez’s 2,500th strikeout, the Angel first baseman has strung together a couple of pivotal hits.

Kotchman’s batting average remained an unimpressive .221 after he finished one for three Friday in the Angels’ 3-2 interleague victory over the Chicago Cubs at Angel Stadium, but the hit was a fourth-inning single off Greg Maddux that drove in Jose Guillen for the winning run.

Kotchman had also keyed a rally Thursday with a two-run double in the seventh inning of the Angels’ 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers, finishing with two hits to stop a one-for-23 skid.


“Any time you can do something to help contribute here, you just try to take advantage of the opportunities you get,” Kotchman said.

Nonetheless, Kotchman’s surge might not be able to protect the 21-year-old from a demotion to the minor leagues when Darin Erstad returns from the disabled list. Erstad, who went two for five with two runs batted in Friday in his second rehabilitation game with triple-A Salt Lake, could rejoin the Angels next week.

Another factor working against Kotchman is the recent return of Tim Salmon and Garret Anderson from the disabled list, which has already created a logjam on the bench.

“With any young player you want them playing as opposed to just sitting here and not playing,” Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said. “But if there’s a role for a guy to help us win, he’s going to be on our club. We’ll know at the time [Erstad returns] what the roles are and what we’re going to need.”

Kotchman said he didn’t have a preference as to whether he would rather play regularly at the minor league level or get sporadic at-bats with the Angels.

“I’m just happy to be here right now,” he said.

Kotchman made a sudden impact with the Angels when, in his second major league game, he smacked a three-run double against the New York Yankees in an 11-2 victory at Yankee Stadium. But his batting average had dipped since he went hitless in four at-bats May 27 against the Toronto Blue Jays.


“He’s hit the ball well probably the last five or six games [but] hasn’t had a lot to show for it,” Scioscia said.

Said Angel pitcher John Lackey, who ended a five-game winless streak Friday thanks in part to Kotchman’s key single: “He’s come up with some big hits the last couple of games and it’s great to see because he’s been kind of a tough-luck guy the last week or two. But he hasn’t gotten down about it and has been having a great approach and now he’s finally getting some results.”