Kaleb Cowart Returns To The Mound

Image credit: Los Angeles Angels

A familiar face has returned to Angels camp in a relatively unfamiliar position. Kaleb Cowart, the strong-armed infielder who never hit well enough to win a big league starting job with the club, was claimed off waivers from Detroit in late February, and he will now try his hand at pitching.

Shohei (Ohtani) kind of opened up some doors for a lot of guys that are able to do some things like this,” Cowart said, referring to the Angels’ current two-way star. “Anytime you can make yourself more versatile, that’s a huge opportunity. Whether it’s me coming out of the ‘pen or playing some defense and then pitching, whatever it is, I’m looking forward to it.”

Teams were split on whether Cowart, a righthander who was the Gatorade National High School Player of the Year at Cook High School in Adel, Ga., in 2010, should pitch or play the infield as a professional.

The Angels selected the switch-hitting Cowart with the 18th overall pick and placed his pitching career on the backburner. Cowart reached the big leagues by 2015, providing value as a late-inning defensive replacement at third base and a temporary fill-in for injured players at second. He also spent some time at first base and in left field.

But the bat the Angels envisioned when they signed the first-round pick for $2.3 million never materialized. Cowart slashed .177/.241/.293 with six homers and 33 RBIs in 162 major league games from 2015-2018.

Tired of shuttling between Triple-A and the major leagues, and frustrated by his struggles at the plate, Cowart, 26, told the Angels after last season that he would begin working out as a pitcher. Seattle was also intrigued by the idea, and Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto, who was the Angels GM when Cowart was rising through the minors, claimed Cowart off waivers in December with the intent of making him a two-way player.

The Tigers later claimed Cowart and brought him to camp as a pitcher, but they lost him to the Angels on another waiver claim two weeks into spring training.

Now, Cowart is back with the team that drafted him, trying to cultivate a repertoire that includes a low-90s fastball, curveball, cut fastball and splitter. He has joined a growing list of potential Angels two-way prospects that includes Jared WalshBo Way and William English.

“It was different at first, just trying to remember how I used to do it, how things work,” Cowart said. “But I’ve got a few bullpens under my belt now, and it feels pretty good.”

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