ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Anaheim Angels placed first baseman Darin Erstad on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring, an injury that limited him to 67 games last season.
To fill the roster spot, the Angels called up first baseman Casey Kotchman, the Angels No. 1 draft pick in 2001, from Double-A Arkansas early Sunday and made his major-league debut.
Erstad's injury occurred in the third inning of Saturday night's 7-2 victory over Tampa Bay when he was trying to score from second on a single to left by Troy Glaus. Erstad grabbed his hamstring about 25 feet past third base and labored the rest of the way to home plate before he was tagged out.
"I knew it was serious. I've had so much experience with them," said Erstad, who is on the DL for the fifth time in his nine-year career and fourth time due to hamstring injuries.
The Angels, who entered Sunday with a major-league-leading 21-10 record, now have three of their top players on the DL. Center fielder Garret Anderson is out indefinitely with a back problem, and designated hitter Tim Salmon isn't expected to return until the next homestand because of a sore knee.
"We've got great guys on the bench," Erstad said. "We've been through all this stuff before, so these guys know how to handle it and we'll be just fine."
Manager Mike Scoscia has been encouraged by the play of reserves Chone Figgins, Jeff DaVanon and Shane Halter, who had the Angels' first pinch-hit grand slam in 17 years Saturday.
"We're not looking to buy time. We're looking to go out there every day and bring that game that's going to lead to a win," Scioscia said. "Without our depth -- which has been the strength of our club -- this might have been a difficult challenge."
Still, losing the hard-nosed Erstad can have an impact because he has been a catalyst for the team ever since he arrived in 1996 -- a year after the Angels made him the first overall pick in the draft.
Erstad, who turns 30 on June 4, is in the second year of a four-year, $32 million contract extension. He led the majors with 240 hits four seasons ago and won two Gold Gloves -- one in left field and one in center -- before shifting to first base this season. He also caught the final out of the 2002 World Series.
Erstad was hitting .264 with 20 RBI in 30 games. He was hitless in two at-bats Saturday to end his hitting streak at 14 games, one shy of his career best.
"He was just distraught when it happened," Scioscia said. "You have to know Ersty to really understand his feelings after something like this. There's only one thing in his mind, and that's to win. He was doing so many things well and he felt very good about where his game was and where the team was."
Kotchman, 21, was batting .368 with three home runs and 18 RBI in 28 games with Arkansas. He is the son of Tom Kotchman, a longtime Angels scout and the manager of their rookie league team.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Kotchman, the Angels transferred right-handed pitcher Greg Jones to the 60-day disabled list. Jones has been sidelined since March 26 because of inflammation in his rotator cuff.
Reds put Larson back on DL
CINCINNATI -- Third baseman Brandon Larson went back on the disabled list with a strained thigh, the latest in an amazing series of setbacks for the Cincinnati Reds' former No. 1 draft pick.
Larson aggravated his left thigh while sliding hard into home plate Friday night in a 6-1 loss to San Francisco. He sat out the next game.
Doctors decided it could develop into a season-long problem if it's not allowed to heal now, general manager Dan O'Brien said.
"We just decided it was best to do it this way," O'Brien said. "He was willing to gut it out and keep playing."
It's the second time this season that Larson has gone on the disabled list. He developed turf toe in spring training and was sidelined until April 26. His comeback was slowed when he was hit by a pitch during a minor league rehabilitation stint.
Mets bring Baldwin back to big leagues
NEW YORK -- The Mets recalled right-hander James Baldwin from Triple-A Norfolk and optioned rookie Tyler Yates to New York's top minor-league team.
Baldwin, who has pitched in 236 major-league games, was 3-2 with a 2.90 ERA in five starts for Norfolk this season and is expected to start for the Mets on Monday night in Arizona.
The 32-year-old Baldwin is 70-79 with a 5.02 ERA in his major-league career that includes tours with the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles, Seattle and Minnesota. He has made 200 career starts and was the winning pitcher in the 2000 All-Star Game in Atlanta.
A's Ellis won't have surgery, but still out for year
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Ellis will not have surgery on his injured right shoulder, after all.
Ellis, who has been rehabilitating in Phoenix, visited the Bay Area this weekend to be seen by several team doctors. Still, Ellis isn't expected to return in 2004.
While the A's haven't "totally ruled out the surgery," according to trainer Larry Davis, most operations to repair labrum tears are done within a month after the injury happens -- and Ellis is well passed that window.
He couldn't undergo surgery right away because there was too much swelling in the shoulder in the immediate weeks following his spring training collision with shortstop Bobby Crosby during an exhibition game against the Chicago Cubs on March 25.
Davis said it was "highly unlikely" Ellis would return any sooner.
Attacked Milwaukee sausage racer retires
MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin's most famous sausage has decided to retire.
Mandy Block, the woman in the Italian sausage costume hit with a bat by Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Randall Simon last July, won't be in the Milwaukee Brewers' sausage races this summer.
She has decided to retire from competitive sausage racing at Miller Park to take psychology classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.