The hottest hitter for the Angels this spring, Kotchman could not quite carve out a niche for himself on the big-league roster and opened the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. With the Stingers, Kotchman dug himself into an 0-for-17 hole before slowly starting to hit.
A productive May helped him get his first callup to the Angels to replace outfielder Curtis Pride, who was filling in for Vladimir Guerrero at the time. Kotchman appeared in seven games and had 10 at-bats, but only reached base on a pair of walks. He did not get a hit and was sent back down June 14 during a flurry of transactions that saw Guerrero activated from the DL and right-hander Ervin Santana called up to replace Kelvim Escobar.
Manager Mike Scioscia feels Kotchman may have put undue pressure on himself to produce more as a power hitter, given he plays a traditionally power position in the lineup.
"At Spring Training, he was hitting to all parts of the field and it appeared he was maturing as a player," Scioscia said. "He felt that he needed to expand his game and I think that hurt him."
Kotchman feels he didn't change his approach at the plate, but admitted his production was down for much of the first half of his Minor League season.
"I haven't really thought about it," Kotchman said. "I just try to put a good swing on the baseball. Outside of that, it is out of my control."
Back with the Angels, Kotchman still has the same problem: a position he cannot crack and at-bats that will be difficult to come by. But the Angels remain high on the 22-year-old with the sweet stroke.
"He is going to be an extremely productive Major League hitter," Scioscia said. "When it comes to power, I think you really have to talk about production. Is he the kind of guy that can hit 40 homers? Not many can do that. But he is the guy that can hit the ball to left and drive in those two runners."
Time to regroup:
The Angels made the relatively easy decision late Wednesday night to place Washburn on the DL. After throwing a bullpen session earlier in the day, Washburn still felt tightness in his left forearm and though he felt he could have pitched, the club felt it better to take another week and skip one more start.
"They talked me into it, but it is the right decision," Washburn said. "I'm hard-headed, but with the progress we've made over the last seven days, why take a step back?"
Chris Bootcheck, who made a spot start last Sunday at Yankee Stadium, will get the call Saturday night against the Devil Rays. The Angels are already without Escobar and must begin looking toward the postseason and how to get there at full strength.
Santana, who started Thursday afternoon and was 6-4 in his first 11 starts, has held down the fifth spot while Bootcheck delivered six innings of one-run ball against the Yankees. Washburn feels the rotation, which led the American League with a 3.84 ERA entering Thursday, can handle the adjustment.
"It is good to go out and throw the way we have this season," Washburn said. "One through five we've been consistent all year this season and that has been a good thing."
The projected return of Escobar remains early September. The right-hander had surgery June 29 to shave a bone spur and remove a bone chip from his right elbow and just this week began throwing from a mound.
"It is becoming more of a reality with every time he comes off the mound and feels better," Scioscia said. "He is still within that [September] window. Hopefully there are not any setbacks."
Third baseman Dallas McPherson opened his rehab assignment at Class A Rancho Cucamonga by going 1-for-3 with an RBI double, a walk and a throwing error. McPherson is recovering from a left hip strain.
Robb Quinlan, who is rehabbing from a bulging disk in his neck and a left shoulder strain, has begun hitting at Mesa.
The Angels will host the Devil Rays in a three-game series, beginning Friday at 7:05 p.m. PT. Right-hander Paul Byrd will face Tampa Bay right-hander Doug Waechter.