Casey with the bat ~ well, the glove at least….

SEATTLE — Casey Kotchman spent summers from age 7 through 10 on long rides with dozens of older guys all over Washington. He was traveling from Boise, Idaho, tagging along with the low-level minor league team managed by his father, Tom.

“I enjoyed all the bus rides. I spent a lot of time growing up here in the Northwest,” Kotchman said Thursday.

He’s all grown up now upon his return to the region. And, no, he doesn’t have to take the bus anymore.

The Mariners finalized their trade with the Boston Red Sox on Thursday that brings the 26-year-old defensive whiz first baseman to Seattle for outfielder Bill Hall, a player to be named and cash.

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Kotchman fits Zduriencik’s plan to rebuild the rising Mariners through defense, pitching and youth. He’s less of a power hitter but is eight years younger and a better defender than Branyan. Zduriencik also likes that Kotchman doesn’t strike out much – 43 is his career high.

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Kotchman is a .269 career hitter who has never hit more than 14 home runs in a season and is known for defense. He joined Boston on July 31 in a trade with Atlanta and played 39 games with the Red Sox.

The 30-year-old Hall hit .200 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 34 games with Seattle last season after a trade with Milwaukee on Aug. 19.

The player to be named is expected to be a minor leaguer.

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Kotchman has not made an error over his last 185 games and last year became just the third first baseman in major league history with a perfect fielding percentage while playing at least 108 games at the position. He’ll fit in with fellow fielding standouts Jack Wilson at shortstop, Ichiro Suzuki in right field and Franklin Gutierrez in center on what looks to be one of baseball’s best defenses.

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Zduriencik, entering his second season as the Mariners’ GM, has known Kotchman since he was in junior high in Florida, through his dad, who went on to work as a scout and in player development for the Angels. Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara was an area scout around Seminole, Fla., when Kotchman was a high school star there.

And Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu and bench coach Ty Van Burkleo were minor league instructors with the Angels when Kotchman began his professional career with that organization.

Plus, the busy Mariners – who last season became the 13th team since 1901 to have a winning record immediately after a 100-loss season – recently signed free agent Chone Figgins. The All-Star third baseman was a teammate of Kotchman’s in Los Angeles until midway through the 2008 season, when the Angels sent Kotchman to Atlanta in the Mark Teixeira trade.

“I’m excited to be here. That’s an understatement,” Kotchman said, wearing a navy blue suit to match the team colors of his fourth major league club in three years. “It helps to have familiar faces around. Certainly, there’s a comfort level here.”


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