Kevin Kouzmanoff has an unfortunate label as he fills in as the regular third baseman for the Rangers big league club.
“Not Adrian Beltre.”
And while that’s true, he also carries another lesser known title at this point in the young season: the hottest hitter on the team. He has hit safely in all five games of his games with Texas, and is currently riding a seven-game major league hit streak that spans 931 days.
That’s 868 days longer than Joe DiMaggio’s famous 56-game hitting streak in 1941.
Kouzmanoff recorded a hit in each of his last two games with the Colorado Rockies in 2011 before spending 2012 and 2013 in the minor leagues. When asked about his big league streak, he said he was not aware of it. Possibly struggling to put it in perspective, he was short on words.
“Cool,” he said with a smile, processing the statistic. “I guess that’s my job, to hit. I’m just trying to get a hit every time I go up to the plate.”
In fact, Kouz has 17 hits in his last 13 big league games. Through 13 games of the 2014 season, no one on the Rangers’ floundering offense has more than 15 hits.
It should come as no surprise to those in the organization, as Kouzmanoff hit .370 in Spring Training. One could reasonably assert that he’s getting his opportunity a couple weeks later than he should have.
“He had a really good camp, and you could argue that he definitely should have made the [Opening Day roster],” General Manager Jon Daniels said Saturday. “The fact that he handled that news as well as he did and didn’t miss a beat says a lot about his character.”
Kouzmanoff said he has no hard feelings about not making the team. His motivation comes from the opportunity to contribute while he has the chance.
“I’m just here trying to do the best I can, trying to get my work in and help the team win” he said. “Unfortunately Beltre got hurt and I have big shoes to fill, but I’m doing the best I can and trying to take advantage of the opportunity that I have.”
Kouz certainly has not missed a beat, even in his two years in the minors. That time included stints with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals and the Omaha Storm Chasers in the Royals’ farm system, and with the New Orleans Zephyrs in the Marlins’ organization.
“I had a couple down years,” he said. “I think it happens, just like you have a down game or you’re in a slump hitting, but now I’m back.”
He certainly is back, and he’s not slumping. The Rangers should be thankful for his services. Whether or not his prolific major league streak is extended to a 932nd day, his contribution shouldn’t go underappreciated. The season is young, and thoughts on the team are still primarily based on first impressions.
And the first impression Kouzmanoff has made in Arlington is a good one.