Kernels' Cowart thriving under pressure

First-round pick flirts with cycle, remains locked in at the plate

Kaleb Cowart has five homers in his last nine games. (Orem Owlz)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | May 9, 2012 7:54 PM ET

Kaleb Cowart is on pace to post career highs in every meaningful statistical category. Off to a hot start in his second pro season, he's taking everything in stride.

The Angels' No. 4 prospect went 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs and missing the cycle by a triple on Wednesday in the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels' 14-2 rout of the Burlington Bees.

The 19-year-old second baseman, selected 18th overall in the 2010 Draft, also walked and scored four runs, raising his average 14 points to .279.

"I've just been trying to see good pitches," Cowart said. "I'm trying to see my pitch and not chase anything. If it goes out, it goes out; if it goes off the wall, that is fine, too.

"Today, I hit the ball well. I saw it well and I was able to put good swings on it. I wasn't swinging at bad pitches."

The 6-foot-3 switch-hitter walked and scored in the first inning, then reached on third baseman B.A. Vollmuth's error in the second before racing home on a wild pitch. In the third, Cowart laced a two-run double to center field and scored on Andy Workman's groundout.

Cowart singled to left with one out in the fifth and grounded out to end the seventh. In the ninth, he collected his third hit with a two-run homer to left-center.

"It was just a 1-1 count. He threw me a changeup first pitch and then a fastball down for a ball," he said. "The next pitch was a changeup in and I was looking for it.

"We had batting practice on the field earlier and the ball wasn't carrying well, but it kept going. I didn't think it was [out]. I thought it would be a double.

Cowart has homered three times in five days, giving him five longballs, 12 RBIs and nine runs scored in 10 games since the end of April. No Minor Leaguer has more homers during that span and only five have driven in more runs.

Despite being the Angels' top Draft pick and batting third in the Kernels' lineup, Cowart doesn't feel any extra pressure to succeed. Part of his confidence comes down to a mechanical change during the offseason, while part comes from being surrounded by the right personnel.

"We have great players on this team and our lineup varies from day to day. [Trevor] Hairgrove and [Ryan] Jones hit in front of me and [Frazier] Hall usually hits behind me, so I don't fell any pressure," he said.

"From last season, I've taken the leg kick out from the left side and worked on making my swing more compact. I worked on it during the offseason and then during Spring Training I worked on it more to get it as short as it could be. When guys are throwing 90 or 95 mph, you have to have a short swing."

The tweak to his swing has produced resulted in a .279 average, six homers and 24 RBIs in 31 games. He also has six doubles and five stolen bases while striking out 23 times. Last season with Rookie-level Orem, Cowart hit .283 with seven homers, 40 RBIs and 11 steals in 72 games; he scored 49 runs and struck out 81 times.

"The Midwest League is definitely harder," the Georgia native said. "A lot of guys throw better pitches and have better stuff. They throw their fastballs in and out and they throw their curveballs and changeups for strikes. My goal is just to go out every day and never stop getting better."

Jones was 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs, Matthew Scioscia plated three runs and starter Michael Clevinger (1-0) allowed two runs on three hits and three walks over seven innings.

Burlington starter Jonathan Joseph (0-2) surrendered 12 runs -- five earned -- on 10 hits and a pair of walks over 4 2/3 innings. He struck out two, hit two batters and threw a wild pitch.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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