Kotchman's power impressing Halos
First baseman could be in for career year with red-hot start
BOSTON -- Second in the American League in slugging percentage at .618 on Thursday morning -- trailing only Boston's Manny Ramirez -- and tied for the AL lead in homers with six, Casey Kotchman seemed unimpressed.
He shrugged. This is Kotchman's standard response when he's asked about the mystery of driving baseballs beyond walls and fences, something he's done more often than any of his esteemed Angels teammates heading into the matinee wrapping up a three-game set with the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
History is chock full of examples of hitters who suddenly developed power in their mid-20s, their bodies reaching full maturity. At 25, Kotchman appears to be getting more carry with his driver, but he's not ready to make any declarations.
"I don't know," he said. "It's hard to say. Some balls have carried enough so far. I've hit a couple that didn't feel like they'd carry, and they did."
Kotchman delivered 11 home runs last season, a career best. April never has been his best month. He'd produced two homers in 151 at-bats in the opening month in previous seasons. So, at the very least, he's getting a nice start on what could be a career year in the power department.
Batting coach Mickey Hatcher said he's reluctant to "brag about a guy" so early in the season, not wishing to see his athlete go into a sudden tailspin, "and then everyone is asking what's wrong with him."
Hatcher admitted that Kotchman "has started off good, with confidence, and that's one of the things you want to see. He's starting to understand how they're pitching him.
"One thing we preach is not to try to hit home runs," Hatcher continued. "I see him going the other way when pitchers are trying to go the other way. He knows how to turn on it, how to use his hands to get inside a fastball inside. Guys who can stay inside a ball like he does are going to have potential to drive the ball. A lot of parks play to that for a left-handed hitter."
Kotchman homered to right in each of the first two games of the series, showing he can find the seats in a park not known to be friendly to left-handed power hitters.
"I think Kotch is getting some pitches to hit and is doing a great job of squaring balls up," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think Kotch's swing is geared toward the line drive, using the whole field. Lately, he's getting some pitches to drive and is not missing them.
"What you're going to rate offense on is the number of runs you're driving in and scoring. Kotch was very productive last year without hitting a lot of home runs. If home runs come, great. But I don't think it's anything you can force.
"There's [power] potential there, but he's so gifted he's got a chance to be a perennial .300 hitter and drive in 100 runs without hitting 25 homers. For a selective hitter, Kotch is pretty aggressive. He's waiting for a ball in his zone, and he'll turn it loose, get his hands inside and put a good swing on it."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.