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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 21, 2010 at 10:06 AM

Casey Kotchman as the Mariners’ No. 3 hitter? It’s under consideration

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Casey Kotchman is hitting third today in Tempe for the Mariners against the Angels — his original team. Manager Don Wakamatsu is contemplating using Kotchman in that key spot in the batting order when the season starts.

“It could be,” he said. “I’m looking at it. It gives us a guy, with Ichi and Figgy at top of the lineup, who is not a double-play guy in general, a guy who can move those runners along. And for me, it backs up Milton to the 4-hole and gives us a little more depth that way.”

That the Mariners are considering this is a reflection of two things: One, the M’s believe there is a lot of untapped potential in Kotchman, who as the Angels’ No. 1 draft pick in 2001 (No. 13 overall) was once believed to have 30-homer potential; and 2) the Mariners simply don’t have a prototypical No. 3 hitter (or No. 4 hitter, for that matter) on their roster.

Kotchman is a lifetime .269 hitter, and has never hit more than 12 homers in a season. His career on-base percentage is .337, his slugging percentage .406. Not exactly Albert Pujols. But the M’s are hoping that Kotchman is at a stage of his career, at age 27, and in a situation with the Mariners, where he can thrive. They believe he may have gone off track in Anaheim by trying to turn into that 30-homer guy, when that wasn’t his game.

“He’s an extremely gifted player,” Wakamatsu said. “He’s a guy that’s not that prototypical power hitter. I think that haunts a guy, too. You try to be something you’re not. We’re asking him to just be a good hitter. He’s always been that. We’re trying to say, just get back to where you were before, and not try to hit a homer and try to be that guy. Just enjoy the game again.”

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