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Day off is no vacation for Kotchman

Times Staff Writer

OAKLAND -- Casey Kotchman was not in the starting lineup Saturday night for the first time in 23 games, and the Angels first baseman was not thrilled.

“I’m 25 years old,” Kotchman said. “I don’t need a day off.”

Manager Mike Scioscia has been wanting to give Kotchman, who bats left-handed, a break, and he thought Saturday’s game against Athletics left-hander Greg Smith was a good time; Smith has held lefties to a .167 average, fifth-lowest in the American League.

But Kotchman is batting .417 (20 for 48) with 10 runs batted in against lefties this season, and he said he “feels great physically, the best I’ve ever felt.”

The last time Kotchman did not start was on May 12, against White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle. Kotchman entered as a pinch-hitter that night, and his two-run single against lefty Boone Logan helped fuel a 10-7 victory.

Neither Kotchman nor Garret Anderson started Saturday, but both will start against Oakland right-hander Rich Harden today.

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“It’s good for them to recharge a bit, and we want to get some bats on the bench in against the left-hander,” Scioscia said, adding they both hit lefties well, but he preferred to give them Saturday off rather than today.

Job hunting

Erick Aybar, on the disabled list since May 21 because of a dislocated right pinkie, will be examined Monday by a hand specialist, and if he is cleared to swing a bat, he could begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment next weekend.

But when Aybar returns, it may not be as a starting shortstop, a position Maicer Izturis could be seizing with his superb defense and hot bat.

Izturis led off Saturday’s game with another home run, becoming the first Angels switch hitter to lead off consecutive games with home runs from each side of the plate.

Izturis also has at least two hits in six of the Angels’ last seven games, going 15 for 31 with eight RBIs to raise his average from .202 to .256.

On the mend

Chone Figgins, on the DL because of a strained right hamstring, repeated his baserunning workout from Friday, going from first to third and first to home aggressively, and will probably begin a rehabilitation assignment with triple-A Salt Lake on Monday.

The speedy leadoff hitter and third baseman has no plans to ease his way back into the lineup.

“It’s all or nothing for me, especially on the basepaths,” Figgins said. “I’m running hard. If I’m playing, I’m going all out.”

Good to go

Scot Shields, sidelined since last Sunday because of a left rib-cage injury, threw 20 pitches off a bullpen mound Saturday, “turning it loose on most of them,” pitching coach Mike Butcher said.

The setup man said he felt fine, and Scioscia said Shields should be available for today’s series finale.

Short hops

A’s center fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who doubled in the eighth inning Saturday, became the first player to have the first seven hits of his career go for extra bases since Hall of Famer Johnny Mize in 1936. . . . Angels pitcher Kelvim Escobar, who threw for three minutes off a mound Friday, is scheduled to throw 30 pitches off a mound Monday, his next step in his recovery from a shoulder tear. . . . The Angels, who have won seven consecutive series, are 28-3 when they score first, the most wins in the majors.

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


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