Journeyman Casey Kotchman embracing new opportunity with Blue Jays
Miami Marlins' Casey Kotchman breaks his bat as he hits into a double play during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on April 3, 2013, in Washington.(Alex Brandon / AP Photo)
Melissa Couto, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, February 27, 2016 3:46PM EST
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Casey Kotchman is hoping his next trip to Toronto goes better than his last.
Kotchman, who signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays in the off-season, was in the city last summer as the first baseman for the United States national team at the Pan American Games.
He was standing at his base when a pickoff attempt from pitcher David Huff sailed well over his head to allow the tying run to score in the gold-medal game against Canada. Then the right-fielder threw errantly to third base, letting the winning run race home.
That all happened after the U.S. had taken a two-run lead in the top of the 10th inning, all but securing the Americans a gold medal in their opponent's home country.
"Obviously that's not how you draw it up. You don't want to lose a game, especially like that," Kotchman said after taking team photos Saturday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium.
"But it happened, and that's life. The only thing you can do is just move on."
For the eighth time in eight seasons, Kotchman is moving on with a new team.
A former top prospect of the Los Angeles Angels -- he was drafted 13th overall in 2001 -- Kotchman hasn't made a big-league appearance since 2013 with the Miami Marlins, when he went hitless through six games and was outrighted at the end of the season.
He spent all of 2014 (90 games) with the Kansas City Royals' triple-A affiliate, taking a week off to play for the U.S. team at the Pan Ams in the Toronto suburb of Ajax, Ont., in July.
Kotchman says he still hasn't had time to appreciate winning that silver medal.
"You know, I haven't thought about it," he said. "The whole experience was cool but I really haven't taken a whole lot of time to analyze it.
"When that was over with we all had to go back to our minor-league seasons and keep playing. Then the off-season comes and you get so busy, so it hasn't really soaked in yet."
Kotchman, who will likely serve as a first baseman for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons, said the thought of joining another "winning organization" was intriguing.
His familiarity with new Blue Jays president Mark Shapiro -- Kotchman played 142 games with the Cleveland Indians in 2012 -- was a bonus.
"The Blue Jays showed last year what they're capable of doing and any time you get a chance to sign with a winner it's a lot more exciting than a team that could lose 100 games," he said. "And with the addition of Shapiro, he's really good at what he does."
Kotchman has become accustomed to the constant moving from city to city. He no longer minds being the new guy in camp every year, either.
"The first couple (of new spring training camps) I would say was harder than the last couple," he said. "You kind of get used to it. You get used to having to learn new faces and new teammates.
"And honestly that's been the fun part of it. I've gotten the chance to meet a lot of people I may not have met if I had stayed with the Angels the whole time."
Notes: Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Saturday that right-hander Marcus Stroman will start the first spring training game in Clearwater, Fla., against the Phillies on Tuesday. Toronto plays an intrasquad game on Monday.