CLEVELAND -- Casey Kotchman was frustrated, but he never panicked.
The Indians first baseman struggled mightily at the plate during the first month of the season, hitting .149 with only two home runs and four RBIs. He didn't look much like the guy who hit .306 and helped the Rays to the playoffs last year.
Through the rough times, though, Kotchman remained consistent. He knew eventually the hits would come.
"You gotta try to remember it is a long season," Kotchman said, "but obviously there is a sense of urgency as well. You can't just sit back and take it, but you can't get it all back at once."
Kotchman has returned to form during May. Entering Wednesday, the 29-year-old was batting .306 with five doubles and 11 RBIs this month. He knocked in the eventual game-winning run Tuesday night against the division-rival Tigers, and went 3-for-4 in the game.
So what changed?
"I couldn't really tell you," Kotchman said. "Stuff is falling in, finding some grass that wasn't that first month."
Indians manager Manny Acta sees a more concrete reason for the improvement.
"He was very jumpy earlier in the year," Acta said, "over-striding a lot, which causes you to chase pitches out of the strike zone. It happens to everybody. They start getting jumpy when they're not producing. But he stuck to his routine, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel because he wasn't hitting."
Kotchman has always been a superb fielder for the Indians, but now he's starting to add another consistent left-handed bat to the Cleveland lineup. With few other options at first base, it's important for the Indians that Kotchman continues to be the hitter he's been throughout his eight-year career.
"We know he's a dependable guy at the plate," Acta said. "We never told anybody that he was going to be Albert [Pujols] or Prince [Fielder]. But, man, he's really good at first base. We knew [the hitting] was going to come."