Bat issue doesn’t worry Kotchman

Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The second-inning ground ball off the bat of Wily Mo Pena went to third base, and the barrel of the broken bat flew into the seats above the third-base dugout in Nationals Park on Wednesday night.

No one was hurt, but the incident further accentuated the controversy surrounding maple bats, which some want banned because they tend to snap into large pieces and fly toward players and fans.

“You do see them blow up at times,” said Angels first baseman Casey Kotchman, who has been using maple bats for years. “I’ve been OK with the ones I have, but you do see them explode.”


Ash wood bats tend to crack and splinter when they break, creating less of an injury threat. If maple bats are banned, Kotchman doesn’t think he’ll have any problems switching to ash.

Kotchman has used maple wood bats since he was 8 years old, when he began spending summers with his father, Tom, an Angels scout who has managed the organization’s rookie-league teams in Boise and Orem since 1990.

“I don’t know what kind of effect that would have,” Kotchman said of the potential switch from maple to ash. “I’d have to cross that bridge when it comes.”

Jersey boy

Reggie Willits gave a soldier the shirt off his back -- literally -- during a visit to the Bethesda Naval Hospital.

The Fort Cobb, Okla., native was so moved by meeting a young Marine from Choctaw, Okla., who is suffering from cancer, that he signed the jersey he wore to the hospital and gave it to the veteran.

“You see that, and you know how easy it could be you,” Willits said. “But he was in great spirits. He even asked me to look him up when I get back to Oklahoma so we can have dinner together.”


Willits was joined on the visit by reliever Justin Speier and Manager Mike Scioscia.

“We got to meet a lot of soldiers who were over there fighting, who were injured,” Willits said. “I’ve always appreciated those who serve our country, but I have even more of an appreciation now. They’re putting their lives on the line for what we get to enjoy.”

Running low

The Angels bench was thinned by injury, illness and absence.

Vladimir Guerrero, pulled from Tuesday’s game in the second inning because of flu-like symptoms, was too sick to play, but Scioscia said he should return Friday against the Dodgers.

Infielder Maicer Izturis sat out his fourth straight game because of a tight right hamstring. Izturis has been doing agility drills and light running, and he will attempt to run the bases Friday.

Outfielder Juan Rivera, who has only two pinch-hit at-bats in the last 14 games, returned to his Florida home because of personal reasons and is scheduled to rejoin the team Friday.

Rehab report

Kelvim Escobar’s fastball hit 95 mph during a two-inning, 32-pitch stint in an Arizona Summer League game Wednesday, the right-hander’s first minor league rehabilitation start in his recovery from a shoulder tear.

Escobar will meet the team this weekend in Los Angeles to be evaluated. He is scheduled to make his next start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga on Monday.

Chris Bootcheck, on the disabled list because of a forearm strain, threw a 30-pitch simulated game in Arizona and will begin a rehab assignment this weekend.