Notes: Kotchman making an impression

Notes: Kotchman making an impression

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Although things are far from decided, it appears that Casey Kotchman remains in the lead for the Angels' starting first-base job.

He was a player that manager Mike Scioscia singled out prior to Saturday's game as making an impression this spring.

"Kotchman has looked as good as we've seen him," said the manager. "We're excited that he's back at 100 percent and looking the way he did at the end of the '05 season when he did very well for us. He's having a great camp."

Kotchman, who won the job out of Spring Training in 2006, finds himself having to do it all over again after missing most of last year with mononucleosis.

"Right now, I'm just emphasizing seeing some pitches and getting quality at-bats," said the 24-year-old. "Everything feels good and I feel strong. The attitude for me is that a string of good luck has to be coming on soon, and I believe that it's right now."

However, Scioscia was quick to point out that things are still relatively uncertain in his mind.

"We have depth at first and we're not sure who's going to emerge as our starter or in what combination at starter," Scioscia said. "Kendry Morales -- every day he grows in experience and figuring out the finer points of the game. [Shea] Hillenbrand has the ability to play there, as does Robb Quinlan. What combination or whether there's one guy that will play there -- we'll figure that out as we move forward."

Kotchman went 2-for-3 on Saturday to raise his spring average to .300 (6-for-20) with a homer. Morales has hit .400 (8-for-20) this spring and has made strides with the glove.

"His defense has been terrific from where he was two years ago," Scioscia said. "From then to where he is now is like night and day. He's worked very hard."

Although it seems likely that the loser of the battle will find himself back at Triple-A to start the season, Scioscia left open the possibility of keeping both of them.

"If there's a significant role for a guy, he'll be on our team, " said the manager. "I don't think we want any of those guys to get just 10 at-bats a month, but if there's a role where someone can help us win, we'll keep him."

Santana stiff: Saturday's starter, Ervin Santana, took the mound while battling some stiffness in his neck and was going to be backed off a bit on his pitch count.

He had pitched five scoreless innings this spring entering the game, but allowed two runs on five hits over three innings, walking two and striking out one.

"I wasn't thinking about [the neck]. It's fine," said Santana. "Once I got on the mound, I was just trying to stay focused. I missed a couple of my spots and left a couple of two-strike sliders up, but I'm getting there. I'm happy with where I am at right now."

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So far, so good: All was well with Jered Weaver (biceps tendinitis) and Bartolo Colon (rotator cuff) a day after their last throwing sessions, and both will be back on the mound Monday.

"Everything feels good," Weaver said. "Obviously, there's a still a little bit of discomfort, but I can throw through it and everything is still free and easy."

Going about his business: With all the off-field controversy surrounding him, Gary Matthews Jr. remained loose and jovial in the clubhouse, answering questions pertaining to on-field matters and joking around with former teammate Eric Young, who was there in his new capacity working for ESPN.

Young was greeted warmly by old friends and teammates in the clubhouse, but some of the players jokingly gave him a hard time for "going over to the dark side," as Scioscia put it.

Quick hits: A big-screen TV was wheeled into the clubhouse before batting practice so players could watch a required MLB presentation regarding the league's drug program. ... Scioscia was ejected from Friday night's game for arguing a balk call on Matt Wilhite, and while mentioning that it was the first time he had been tossed from a Spring Training game, joked that he "needs to warm up for the season" in that respect as well. ... Matthews and catcher Mike Napoli were given a routine day off Saturday and both will be back in the lineup Sunday. ... Scioscia indicated that top starting pitching prospect Nick Adenhart had impressed him and that he had a "strong feeling he is ready for Double-A" to start the season.

Up next: The Angels will play split-squad games Sunday. Scioscia will take half the team to Surprise, Ariz., to face off with Texas, while bench coach Ron Roenicke will manage the other half of the squad at Tempe Diablo Stadium against Oakland. Two pitchers battling for rotation jobs will start for the Halos. Dustin Moseley pitches against the Rangers, and Joe Saunders takes the hill against the Athletics. Both games will start at 1:05 p.m. PT.

Jason Grey is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.