The Mariners handed Kotchman the first-base job into 2010 and they haven't been expecting the world; he bats seventh most of the time, even against right-handed pitching. But the Mariners might be ready to rethink that position, given that they're scrambling for offense and Kotchman has been one of their better hitters thus far. He homered for the second straight game Monday en route to a 2-for-4 night, upping his line to .286/.367/.595 for the year.
That zesty slugging percentage immediately grabs your attention. Kotchman's career slugging is a paltry .410, which shouldn't get you on the field at any position, let alone a corner infield slot. But there are different paths to glory (or usefulness) in this professional baseball racket, and let's not forget how highly regarded Kotchman was in MLB circles a few years back (the Angels played him in front of Kendry Morales(notes); the Braves targeted him in the Mark Teixeira(notes) trade).
There's nothing fluky about Kotchman's early production; he's making his own luck with a bushel of line drives (25.6 percent). He's always had a sharp batting eye and that hasn't changed (six walks, four strikeouts). Maybe this is a grow-up season for the guy who drove us crazy all those years.
• The Citi Field crowd was in good spirits Monday night, eager to cheer for a first baseman not named Mike Jacobs(notes). Fresh rookie Ike Davis(notes) came through with two singles and an RBI in four trips, batting out of the No. 6 slot. He's Ron Davis's kid, don't you know, which probably earns him some extra cred in New York. The rookie will probably see a diet of breaking pitches given the way he ducked away from one Sean Marshall(notes) bender, but hey, Davis went on to single later in the at-bat. If I were ranking all the first basemen right now for a Shuffle Up, I'd give Davis a price in the $6-7 range.
• David Ortiz(notes) is not the only Boston hitter in a funk right now, but we focus on his troubles because he might be the regular in this lineup who's closest to the cliff portion of his career. Ortiz over the last two years has been most dangerous at home and against right-handed pitching, but that hasn't helped him this far in 2010 (.158/.238/.289). Now things get tricky, as the Red Sox are set to face three lefties in five days (Matt Harrison(notes), C.J. Wilson(notes) and the dazzling Brian Matusz(notes)). Anyone feeling a comeback story from Papi here? I'm bearish.
• Ty Wigginton(notes) gave us the Wiggy Hat Trick on Monday, a homer, an error and a strikeout. He's also qualifying at three infield spots and he's got five quick homers for the year (on just 34 at-bats), so we'll gladly take the good with the bad. He's been in the No. 2 slot the past two games.
• Tampa Bay's loaded roster makes it difficult for a younger player to get noticed sometimes and that was more or less the story with Jeff Niemann(notes) this spring. His dominant form from camp has carried over to the real games, with the latest strong outing coming Marathon Day in Boston (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 4 K). Niemann got away with more fly balls than usual in this start (12 batted balls in the air, against six on the ground) but we'll take that line every day of the week. Home days with the Blue Jays and Royals await.
• The Brad Penny(notes) show kept running Monday (7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K), and it's impressive to see him pitch this well in a hitter's environment like Arizona. If you play in a league with 12 or more owners, Penny should be owned. Jason Motte(notes) had some trouble in his set-up gig (two outs, two hits), requiring Trever Miller(notes) to finish the eighth. Ryan Franklin(notes) worked a 1-2-3 ninth, getting one deep fly ball (hit to dead center), one strikeout and one uneventful out.
One other St. Louis tidbit before we move on – note that Tony La Russa is giving Yadier Molina(notes) the Russell Martin(notes) treatment in 2010. Molina has now caught six days in row, including all 20 innings of the endless classic between the Cardinals and Mets Saturday. Molina is never going to be a fantasy superstar at the plate, but he'll get more at-bats than just about anyone at the position, he can hit for a plus average, and he'll chip in with the other categories. There's more utility here than meets the eye.
• Dontrelle Willis(notes) hans't completely blown up through three starts (4.24 ERA) but I'm not endorsing this guy in any format. The 1.59 WHIP suggests rockier times are ahead, and he's got a modest nine strikeouts over 17 innings – he bears little resemblance to the power arm we saw in the early Florida days. Willis's Monday turn in Anaheim was effective (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K) in part because home plate umpire Mark Wegner was friendly with borderline strikes on both sides of the plate (the entire game saw just two walks, in fact). I'll be stunned if the Rangers don't put up a big number against Willis this weekend.
• Anyone willing to stump for Seattle right-hander Doug Fister(notes)? He's been sharp in his last two outings, the latest coming Monday against Baltimore (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 B, 3 K). He's a funny guy to watch, a finesse pitcher that stands 6-foot-8; he can't throw the ball by many hitters, but he's always around the plate with his high-80s heater. I'll put him in the spot-start file, especially when he's at home and against a modest opponent, but I'm not risking him Sunday at Chicago, no matter that the White Sox aren't hitting right now. If everything clicks for Fister this year, maybe this is another Jarrod Washburn(notes) story, coming at you from the other side of the mound. (I'd like to trade credit for the Washburn comp, but it's straight from Dave Cameron over at U.S.S. Mariner.)
Speed Round: Ted Lilly(notes) (knee, shoulder) was super in his Single-A rehab start (7 IP, 1 R) and might start for the Cubs this weekend at Milwaukee. I'd watch his start with interest, but there's very few starting pitchers I'd use immediately coming off the DL. … Brian Fuentes(notes) (back) had a clean inning of work in his rehab assignment Monday and Mike Scioscia made it clear that Fuentes gets the ninth inning back when the closer returns Wednesday. In the meantime, Fernando Rodney(notes) has been closing very well, thank you (4-for-4). … Cliff Lee(notes) will throw a simulated game Tuesday and a rehab assignment could be next up. … Reid Brignac(notes) (8-for-22, .591 slugging) just needs a place to play, and perhaps the terrible start from Sean Rodriguez(notes) will open things up. … Dioner Navarro(notes) has the Tampa Bay catching job all to himself while Kelly Shoppach(notes) rehabs, not that there's any real fantasy utility here. Navarro will bat ninth in the Tampa order and he's carrying a .162 average with him. … The Nationals have seven victories and Matt Capps(notes) has saved six of them. Let's hear it for efficiency. … The sneaky-useful Juan Uribe(notes) homered off Heath Bell(notes) in the ninth at San Diego, forcing extras, but the Padres took the game back in the tenth on David Eckstein's(notes) walk-off homer. And yes, Eckstein really hustled around the bases.
Jeff Mathis(notes) extended his hitting streak to ten games and the Angels won again, which in theory should extend his leash. But Mathis took a pitch off his hand while catching late in Monday's game and he'll have an X-ray Tuesday (h/t Seraph), so we'll see where that leads. … Russell Branyan(notes) (back) is ready to return to the Indians, which means Michael Brantley(notes) will go back to the minors. … Brandon Morrow(notes) looked super against the Royals (7 H, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K) but unfortunately Kansas City has not transferred to the AL East. If Morrow can get it done in Tampa this weekend, I'll reevaluate. … A bad hamstring puts Conor Jackson(notes) on the disabled list and Gerardo Parra(notes) back in the Arizona lineup (Rico Suave name-drop rules apply). It also pushes Kelly Johnson(notes) to a better batting slot. … Mike McCoy(notes) is on a 6-for-12 run with three steals over the past five days, but he'll be back on the bench when Aaron Hill(notes) returns (likely this weekend). … Chad Qualls(notes) finally got back on the mound, in a non-save spot, and didn't have much (3 H, 1 R). If anyone in the greater-Arizona area can get some late-inning outs, drop a line to A.J. Hinch. … Let's give the final handshake of the night to Eric Gagne(notes), who called it quits Monday. He goes to the couch with 187 career saves, and from 2002-04 he was probably the best fantasy closer in the game.