Cowart goes deep for first big league hit
ANAHEIM -- With his parents, girlfriend and their families in attendance at Angel Stadium on Saturday, Kaleb Cowart finally got his first Major League hit. In the fifth inning of the Angels' 15-3 loss to the Blue Jays, Cowart launched a solo homer off Toronto starter Marco Estrada, the first Angels player to record a home run as his first Major League hit in eight years.
"It was a great moment," Cowart said. "It felt pretty good, like a home run usually does."
At the plate, at least, it had been a rough first few days in the big leagues for Cowart, who went hitless in his first four games and 14 at-bats after making his Major League debut on Tuesday. He had struck out six times and looked like he hadn't been able to adjust to big league pitching.
But after popping out in his first at-bat Saturday, Cowart got his timing together his second time up, turning on an 80-mph changeup from Estrada and depositing it in the seats behind the high wall in right-center field. The home run traveled an estimated 399 feet, per Statcast™, and left Cowart's bat with an exit velocity of 100 mph.
"I think it was just nerves the first few days, and I finally got in there and felt comfortable today, and got a pitch up over the plate that I could do something with," Cowart said. "There's a lot of pressure coming in trying to get that first knock, and I'm just happy to get it out of the way."
Cowart, the Angels' No. 12 prospect, was called up for his defense -- manager Mike Scioscia called him a "premier" defensive third baseman -- and he has been excellent at third since his debut. But his turnaround at the plate his last few months in the Minors was what put him back on the team's prospect lists, after Cowart fell off the map completely in the last couple of years.
"This kid's coming up, his first crack at the big leagues, and trying to do some things in a pennant race is obviously a tall order for anybody," Scioscia said. "It's good to see him get a hold of one, he got the monkey off his back, and hopefully he can relax."
Before his callup, Cowart batted .323 in 220 at-bats at Triple-A Salt Lake. But Major League pitching is on a different level than Triple-A, and it took Cowart a few games to adjust the timing of his leg kick, which is the key to his swing mechanics.
"Everybody throws harder up here, and it's just something I had to get going earlier," Cowart said. "And the past couple of days have felt a lot better."