Notes: Kotchman surging at plate
First baseman's slow July forgotten with scorching August
ANAHEIM -- Casey Kotchman doesn't ordinarily look back -- it's never recommended in the company of "today-is-everything" manager Mike Scioscia. But the Angels first baseman couldn't resist reflecting on how close he came to experiencing a Ted Williams weekend in Boston."I could have gone 12-for-12," he said, eyes wide in amazement. Incredible as it might seem, he's not exaggerating. Kotchman, playing three of the four games and drawing a key walk as a pinch-hitter in the fourth, collected seven hits in 12 official trips to the plate as the Angels earned a split in a clash of division titans with the Red Sox. In his five other at-bats, Kotchman hit the ball on the nose each time. He drilled a grounder to first, was robbed of a hit by second baseman Dustin Pedroia with a backhanded stab, had a two-run homer stolen by right fielder Bobby Kielty and lined out to left-center and right-center. After a .270 July dropped his average to .298 from a high of .333 on June 16, the 24-year-old Kotchman is back to .305 with a .339 August, including .484 slugging and .397 on-base marks. That .305 average he took into Tuesday night's Angel Stadium date with the Yankees would have been .319 -- ninth in the American League, right behind Vladimir Guerrero's .323 -- if those five Boston bullets had fallen for hits. "The good thing is," Kotchman said, "it shows I'm getting good swings. I've been feeling pretty good up there." Lockermates Chone Figgins and Garret Anderson regularly counsel the younger Kotchman on the inner game, stressing the importance of trusting and staying with your approach -- not drifting away and experimenting when the hits aren't falling. "That's something I've done this year, as opposed to in the past," said Figgins, the AL's No. 4 hitter at .336. "Before, I'd hit a couple of line drives at guys for outs, and I'd start changing things, trying to find base hits. Now, I stick with my approach even when I'm hitting in bad luck, and as a result, I'm finding more holes. "You can't guide the ball. All you can do is hit it hard. And most important of all, you can't lose confidence in your approach." Colon progressing: Scioscia isn't sure what the veteran right-hander's role will be when he rejoins the pitching staff, but Bartolo Colon is making consistent strides in his recovery from a right elbow impingement that sent him to the DL on July 24. Colon threw 45 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday at Angel Stadium and was close to 90 pitches overall, Scioscia estimated, including warmups. "I thought his mechanics were much better than when he left the mound [on July 23]," Scioscia said. "His arm stroke is nice, his extension is nice. This is a solid first step." The next step could be a couple of innings in live competition against Minor League hitters, Scioscia said. As for his role down the stretch, Colon coming out of the bullpen would be "a stretch," the manager said. Not since his rookie year in 1997 has Colon pitched in relief, with 304 of his 306 career appearances as a starter. "Our goal is to get Bart healthy and see where we are," Scioscia said. "When he came back at the start of the season [after last year's rotator cuff tear], he was lights-out his first five or six starts. We're going to talk to Bart about some things." Colon is 6-6 with a 6.72 this season in 16 starts after going 5-0 with a 3.69 ERA his first six outings. Juan-derful news: It appears that Juan Rivera is gradually getting his timing back. Back in action following a baserunning misadventure in the Winter League in Venezuela last December resulting in a broken lower left leg, Rivera had a double in four at-bats on Tuesday for Triple-A Salt Lake. He was hitting .214 through four games with the Bees after batting .400 in three games for Class A Rancho Cucamonga. The Angels' front office is hoping that Rivera -- one of the club's premier power threats last season with career highs in homers (23) and RBIs (85) -- can recapture his stroke and become a contributor down the stretch, even if it's in a limited role. Rivera batted .310 with a .525 slugging percentage last year. Guerrero is the club's slugging leader at .541, with Kotchman next among regulars at .482. Rivera began his long recovery in Spring Training in the weight room at the club's Tempe facility. The leg didn't heal as swiftly as he had hoped -- he'd targeted a July return -- but he has made big strides lately. "I talk to him when I have time," good buddy Maicer Izturis said of his fellow Venezuelan, "and he's feeling better. I hope he gets back. He can really help us." Minor sensations: Nick Adenhart ran his record to 9-7 with seven strikeouts in six innings, and Darren O'Day notched his seventh save as DH Ben Johnson hit a three-run homer in Double-A Arkansas' 3-2 win over San Antonio. Adenhart has a 3.74 ERA in 24 starts and 106 strikeouts against 61 walks in 142 innings. On Aug. 21 in Angels history: En route to the postseason, Mike Witt outdueled Jack Morris and moved to 15-7 in a 6-1 win at Detroit, with the late Donnie Moore striking out the side in the ninth. Bob Boone homered and Wally Joyner drove in two runs with a pair of hits. Up next: John Lackey (15-7, 3.32) tries to rebound from an off game at Boston when he faces Andy Pettitte (10-7, 3.80) in Wednesday's series finale with the Yanks at Angel Stadium at 7:07 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.