Notes: Two Halos still seeing red, gladly
Kotchman, Saunders stay with club as trade deadline pass
SEATTLE -- No trade news for Angels fans is, well, no news. As in status quo, business as usual.For Casey Kotchman and Joe Saunders, no news -- as in no Angels moves by the non-waiver deadline -- is good news. They're not moving to Texas in a Mark Teixeira deal, as widely rumored before the Rangers dispatched the slugger to Atlanta. Still members in good standing of the Angels' first-place troupe, Kotchman and Saunders are revved to assist the club in a run through summer into autumn ending, hopefully, in a Fall Classic. "There's some sense of relief, of encouragement," Kotchman said before Tuesday night's Safeco Field date with the Mariners. "You're going to be with your teammates you've played all year with, the last couple years with. That's exciting." Having overcome lingering issues with a concussion courtesy of a throw from Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, Kotchman is swinging a lively bat again in the heart of the Angels' order. "I've dealt with physical injuries before, but nothing like that," Kotchman said, Martin's throw having caused his head to split open as the helmet was unable to fully absorb the impact. "That messed up my equilibrium, timing, everything. If you have an injury to a body part, it doesn't affect your rhythm or timing. A blow to your head creates all kinds of challenges." Kotchman was among the American League leaders in slugging (.556), average (.333) and on-base percentage (.411) at the time of the June 16 injury, numbers that dipped dramatically when he tried to come back and struggled to recapture his stroke. As he heads for Atlanta, Teixeira is batting .297 with .524 slugging and .397 on-base marks -- inferior across the board to Kotchman's numbers when Martin inadvertently drilled him. Defensively, there's little, if anything, separating the two first basemen. "I felt a little cleaner with the execution of some swings on the last homestand," Kotchman said, having lifted his average back to .298 from a low of .283 on July 21. "I felt like I was a little more in tune with my timing on pitches. Every plate appearance, you hope to take something from it to build on and hope it all clicks."
Saunders' rhythm and timing also have been severely challenged this season, primarily by riding the shuttle from Triple-A Salt Lake to Anaheim. It now appears that the smooth southpaw has locked into a rotation slot with a 4-0 record and figures to be a factor to the finish -- especially given the uncertainty surrounding Bartolo Colon's right elbow and the inconsistency of Ervin Santana, now toiling in Salt Lake."It is a relief -- it's nice to know the club feels confident in you to go out and do the job," said Saunders, who will open a four-game series in Oakland on Thursday night. "You can't really worry about [getting traded], but it's your livelihood, so it's hard not to think about it. "We're right there, in first place. We're going to be contending. Guys here are happy to be here and want to stay." Aybar close: Out since July 1 following surgery on his right wrist, all-purpose role player Erick Aybar is ready to start his rehab assignment at Salt Lake on Wednesday. "It's fine, no problems at all," Aybar said of the wrist as he packed his bag for the trip to the Pacific Coast League. Manager Mike Scioscia said Aybar will play a minimum of four or five games at Salt Lake. Testing his elbow, Colon threw on flat ground on Tuesday but there is no timetable for getting him on a mound, his next step. Top farm system: This will come as no consolation to fans clamoring for that proven bat, but the editorial board of Minor League News has selected the Angels as having its 2007 MLN Farm System of the Year. Four Angels prospects ranked among the MLN FAB50: third baseman Brandon Wood (11th overall), right-handed pitcher Nick Adenhart (20th), outfielder Terry Evans (28th) and right-hander Nick Green (42nd). Wood and Evans are teammates with Salt Lake, while Adenhart and Green are anchoring Double-A Arkansas' pitching staff. Minor sensations: Right-hander Jason Bulger continued his superb work for Salt Lake, closing a 1-0 decision over Iowa by striking out three of the five men he faced on Monday night. Starter Pedro Liriano lifted his record to 4-11 (5.85 ERA) with five innings of four-hit work, with Matt Willhite (two innings), Steve Shell (two outs) and Bulger preserving the shutout. Bulger, 28, from Lawrenceville, Ga., came to the Angels from Arizona in exchange for second baseman Alberto Callaspo on Feb. 28, 2006. A first-round pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft (22nd overall) out of Valdosta State by the Diamondbacks, Bulger has appeared in two Major League games, giving up three earned runs in 1 2/3 innings. In the PCL this year, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is 4-2 with seven saves and a 4.01 ERA in 39 games. He has 71 strikeouts and 18 walks in only 42 2/3 innings, close to a 4-1 ratio. On July 31 in Angels history: In 1998, Garret Anderson extended his hitting streak to a club-record 28 games with a hit against Boston's Bret Saberhagen at home, but it ended the next day against Pedro Martinez. "I was running on fumes by then," Anderson recalled, "and Pedro was dealing, on top of his game. I hit one ground ball hard, and that was it." The Molina brothers, Bengie and Jose, became the first brothers to homer in the same game since Jason and Jeremy Giambi, both going deep against Randy Johnson in the Bronx in 2005.
Ron Romanick beat Oakland in 1984 and '85 on this date, and Reggie Jackson homered in support of Geoff Zahn's shutout of the A's in Anaheim in 1983.Up next: Jered Weaver (7-5, 3.68 ERA) duels Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez (7-6, 3.85) in Wednesday's series finale at 7:05 p.m. PT.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.