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Angels hope third baseman Kaleb Cowart's bat catches up to his glove

Angels hope third baseman Kaleb Cowart's bat catches up to his glove
Angels third basemanKaleb Cowart throws to second base to force out the Indians' Lonnie Chisenhall during a game in Cleveland on Aug. 28. 2015. (Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

Kaleb Cowart has shown in 11 games that he is ready for the big leagues defensively. The Angels third baseman has displayed good range to both sides, a strong and accurate arm, and has charged several slow rollers and made off-balance throws to first base.

He also made a difficult catch after a long run of Jason Kipnis' fifth-inning foul popup Saturday night, the play ending with Cowart slipping into the third base dugout in Progressive Field.

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"From a defensive perspective, you couldn't ask much more from a major league third baseman," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's made every play. He's made a lot of tough plays look easy. He has great tools."

But the "real litmus test," as Scioscia said, will be how Cowart makes adjustments at the plate, "and you're not going to know what they are until you face the beast, which is major league pitching."

The beast has had the upper hand so far. Cowart, 23, is hitting .156 (five for 32) with one home run, 15 strikeouts and four walks.

There are some encouraging signs. Cowart hit a two-out, run-scoring single in Friday night's 3-1 loss to the Indians. He flared a double to left during a two-run fourth inning Saturday night but struck out looking with two on to end the sixth.

"These are the best pitchers in the world, and you have to be really disciplined in the strike zone and not chase the pitches they want you to swing at," said Cowart, who was called up from triple A on Aug. 18. "I think that's been the biggest adjustment so far, trying to go up there and swing at the right pitches."

Cowart looked overmatched in his first four games, going hitless in 13 at-bats with six strikeouts, before clubbing a homer against Toronto on Aug. 22 for his first hit.

"Early on, I was nervous and chasing and pressing, trying to get a hit," Cowart said. "Once I got it, things settled down."

When third baseman David Freese returns from a broken right index finger — probably Monday or Tuesday in Oakland — the switch-hitting Cowart will go to the bench.

But if Freese departs as a free agent this winter, and Cowart's offense starts to catch up with his defense, Cowart will have a good chance of beating out Kyle Kubitza, acquired from Atlanta last winter, for the third base job in 2016.

"We feel these guys both have really good skill sets," Scioscia said. "If they reach their potential, you absolutely have two legitimate every-day third basemen."

Short hops

Kole Calhoun's first-inning homer Saturday marked the first time an Angel hit the first pitch of a game for a homer since Maicer Izturis at Oakland on June 7, 2008. … Former Cy Young Award winners, including Corey Kluber on Saturday night, are 11-3 with a 2.33 earned-run average in 16 starts against the Angels this season.

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