Batting Is Weird Idea for Pitchers

Times Staff Writer

Manager Mike Scioscia surveyed a pretty gruesome scene in Angel Stadium the other day, and it wasn’t even in the training room. It was his pitchers taking batting practice in preparation for interleague play in National League parks, where there is no designated hitter.

“Terrible,” was Scioscia’s one-word summation of his pitchers’ hitting abilities.

Are they that bad?

“OK,” Scioscia retracted, “Jarrod Washburn is a little less than terrible.”

Like it or not, and ready or not, Washburn, John Lackey, Bartolo Colon, Kelvim Escobar and probably Ramon Ortiz will step into the batter’s box during the next two weeks, when the Angels play nine of 13 games in NL parks, a stretch that begins against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight in PNC Park.

Scioscia is not expecting much.

“We want them to get the bunt down, and if they can put the ball in play, that’s a bonus,” Scioscia said. “The main thing is, we don’t want them to get hurt. They’ll wear thumb guards in case they get jammed, foot guards in case they foul a ball off.”


While injuries have derailed many an Angel team in recent years, they’ve been fortunate when it comes to pitchers hitting and -- in the rare cases when needed -- running the bases.

In Scioscia’s five years in Anaheim, no pitcher has suffered a serious injury on offense, though Ortiz gave the Angels a scare a few years ago when he came into home plate awkwardly in Dodger Stadium.

“The catcher had the plate blocked, so I jumped up and missed home plate and was out,” Ortiz said. “It was a funny play.”

Not so funny is the performance of Angel pitchers with bats. Washburn has been a plus, with six hits in 19 at-bats for a .316 average, and he has driven in two runs. But the rest, for the most part, have been easy outs.

Colon, who has played in the National League, is batting .123 (nine for 73) with four runs batted in; Escobar is hitting .071 (one for 14) with one RBI; Ortiz, who is expected to start Saturday in place of the injured Aaron Sele, is hitless in 19 at-bats, and Lackey is hitless in three at-bats. Sele, who could return against the Dodgers on June 26 or 27, is batting .167 (four for 24) with one RBI.

“I like to hit, but sometimes pitchers throw 93, 95 mph, and it’s not easy,” Ortiz said. “You think you’re going to get hit with a pitch. Oh my God, I’m so skinny. That would hurt.”


Washburn, who will get his hacks in tonight, said he enjoys hitting, even if it wears him out at times.

“I just try to help the team any way I can,” he said. “Get the bunt down, and if not, put the ball in play and make something happen.”

There are other incentives. Every year, Angel starters throw $100 each into a pool, and whoever gets the most hits that season takes the pot.

“There are five pitchers,” Washburn said. “So I’ve won $400 most years.”


What seemed inevitable became a reality Monday when the Angels put catcher Bengie Molina, who already had sat out nine games because of a strained left calf, on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 4. The Angels already have had nine regulars on the DL.

Molina received a cortisone shot over the weekend, and the Angels held out hope that he would be able to return during the Pittsburgh series.

But Molina didn’t make enough progress to play against the Pirates. He will be eligible to return Saturday.


The Angels did not make an accompanying roster move Monday but are expected to recall a pitcher from triple-A Salt Lake or activate reliever Brendan Donnelly from the DL.


While his teammates packed for Pittsburgh on Sunday, first baseman Casey Kotchman packed for Salt Lake. The 21-year-old was optioned to triple-A to make room for Darin Erstad, who was activated off the disabled list and will start tonight.

Kotchman, who was promoted from double-A Arkansas, hit .218 with six doubles and 14 RBIs in 28 games, but he made an indelible mark with his superb defense and his mature approach at the plate, where he was rarely overmatched.

“He’s going to be a good player for a long time,” Scioscia said. “To compete the way he did here is a big step forward. This experience will help him.”