Tampa Bay Rays
Kotchman thriving even as Rays struggle
ST. PETERSBURG - Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman needed four plate appearances Wednesday to join the American League batting leaders, and got all four, getting three hits in the Rays 4-0 loss to the Yankees. Kotchman, who raised his average to .337, is now second in the American League in batting behind Boston's Adrian Gonzalez, who's hitting .343. Those two trail Jose Reyes of the Mets, who leads the major leagues with a .350 average. "I haven't thought about it," Kotchman said.To qualify for the batting title, a player needs 3.1 plate appearances per games played by that team. Kotchman was held back because he spent the first week of the season at Triple-A Durham and then played sparingly after being called up on April 8. Kotchman's average hasn't been below .330 since May 5. He has multiple hits in eight of his last 14 games. He also leads the team with 11 infield hits. This is the second time Kotchman has been among the league leaders in batting during his career. In 2007, he was batting .333 on June 16 for the Angels when he was struck behind his right ear by a pickoff throw to second base by Dodgers catcher Russell Martin. He suffered a mild concussion and a cut that required three stitches. Kotchman missed seven games and his hitting tailed off when he returned. He finished the season batting .296.