Reporting Matt Loede
CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – If your wondering if the Indians expect to have new pickup Casey Kotchman be the everyday first basemen, Tribe GM Chris Antonetti seemed to put that to rest on Friday morning.
“I think he will get the majority at bats over there,” Antonetti said. “Whether or not it’s everyday or the bulk of the playing time, that will be up to Manny (Acta) to decide.”
Kotchman is the latest in an offseason of pickups for the Indians, and he could wind up being the biggest, as he brings not only a very good glove to the roster, but also he’s coming off his best offensive season in his 8 Major League seasons.
“In acquiring Casey we feel he complements the group of players we have exceptionally well,” Antonetti said. “Casey had a very good year last year, and as importantly for us is an exceptionally gifted defensive player.”
Last season with the Rays, Kotchman hit .306 in 500 at-bats. In 146 games, he put up 153 hits, 24 doubles, 2 triples, 10 homers and 48 RBI. He also drew 48 walks and struck out 66 times.
He’s known as a professional hitter, something that the Indians sorely need, and something they hope that Kotchman will build on as he comes into his prime at 28 years old.
“He’s a guy that controls the strike zone well, puts up a quality at-bat, is a professional hitter,” Antoentti said of Kotchman. “He puts the ball in play, and does a good job of managing his at-bats.”
The Indians have been trying almost since the day the season ended to upgrade the first base spot, and the search went far and wide. Among those on the list included Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee, Michael Cuddyer and a pickup this last week of Russ Canzler.
Kotchman has been on the Indians radar for a long time according to Antonetti. He said Friday that the Tribe was in the mix for him a season ago, and even tried at one point to trade for him.
“We actually tried to sign him last year as a non-roster guy, it actually came down to us and Tampa at this point last year,” Antonetti said. “We tried trading for him when he was with the Angels, so it’s a guy we’ve had interest in for quite awhile.”
It sounds like Kotchman wanted to come to the Indians, as he informed Antonetti that Indians first basemen combined last season had more errors at the position than he had in his entire career.
Kotchman in his career has a total of 11 errors. Last year, the Indians, with Matt Laporta, Carlos Santana, Shelley Duncan and Jack Hannahan all recording games at first, were charged with 12 errors. The numbers don’t lie.
The new Indians 1B finished the season with a .998 (2 E/1201 TC) fielding pct., leading all major league first basemen in that category for a fourth consecutive campaign (2008-11).
So what happens now with LaPorta, who was told late last season the team was going to have a competition at first in 2012? Antonetti said he’s still a part of the future, but Friday said decisions about his future need to be made.
“I think it’s important for Matt to play regularly,” Antonetti said. “He will come into camp and have an opportunity to come in and compete for a Major League spot. I think if it ends up that the spot is available is a part time spot, I’m not sure that would be the best fit for Matt, but that’s not a decision we’ve made yet.”
For now, the team has upgraded the position. Ff Kotchman can hit as well as a season ago, and play the position as he has in the past, it’s a no-brainer move for the Indians to grab him for the 2012 season.