Morales targets Sunday to get in Halos' lineup
If ankle not ready, first baseman likely to start season on DL
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kendrys Morales claims he has no doubts about his surgically repaired left ankle returning eventually to full strength.
"I'm 100 percent confident I'm going to get there," the Angels' first baseman said on Thursday.
What he's less sure about is how long that will take as he tries to clear the final hurdle of his rehab: running full speed and making turns on the basepaths.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia thinks his first baseman needs to be ready for game conditions of some sort by Sunday to be fit for Opening Day on March 31 in Kansas City.
Of that, Morales is far from certain.
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"If it feels good, I'm going to play on Sunday," Morales said through the translation of team video coordinator Diego Lopez.
Asked if he thinks he'll be ready for Opening Day, Morales had the same response: "If it feels good, I'm going to play. I want to play, but it's not my decision. I don't want to go out there if I'm not 100 percent."
If he doesn't play on Opening Day, which appears the most likely scenario, he'll probably open the season on the disabled list with Mark Trumbo at first base and Bobby Abreu in the designated hitter role.
Scioscia stressed that the club would not rush Morales back or allow him to push himself beyond his limits.
"Our medical staff's done a great job letting him go at his own pace," Scioscia said. "It's a process. Is he going to be ready Opening Day or won't he? We haven't gotten a sense he's doing anything to put himself at risk as the window [Sunday] is nearing. We're not going to let him do that."
Morales is having good days followed by days when inflammation in the ankle, after a strenuous workout, limits him somewhat in his mobility.
"Part of the process is one day [the ankle] feels 100 percent, [and] the next day it's less [than 100 percent]," Morales said. "It's the consistency of the rehab. I want to be able to do it consistently."
He has been running for more than a week and began running through bases on dirt on Tuesday.
"A week ago, he looked really close," Scioscia said. "He just can't get over this last little hump running bases, making turns. He's running through bases. He's making progress but has this one other hurdle to overcome.
"Right now, it's cleats in the ground and getting up to 100 percent straight ahead. He's close. If he's not in games by Sunday, it's probably going to push him back from Opening Day as far as being on the roster. We've got three more workouts [before Sunday]. We'll see how they go."
Morales, who has lost 14 pounds this spring, down to 234, feels his rehab has gone as well as he could have expected given the severity of the injury and the surgery.
"It's where it needs to be," he said. "It feels fine where it is now. I'm running the maximum I can at this point. I can't tell [the percentage], but every time it is increasing."
Morales has been hitting all spring, from both sides of the plate, and it's clear that is no problem. He is driving towering shots well beyond the fences left- and right-handed.
His glove work isn't as advanced, owing largely to his inability to make sharp cuts on the ankle.
"My fielding has been a little stiff," he said. "It's more difficult with the rehab stuff."
If Morales returns as a DH initially, it would cause a ripple effect. Abreu likely would move to left and Vernon Wells to center, with Peter Bourjos becoming a fourth outfielder and defensive replacement in the late innings.
The surgery was performed June 10, 12 days after Morales suffered the lower left leg fractures landing on home plate after a game-winning grand slam against the Mariners at Angel Stadium.
Morales, fifth in the 2009 American League Most Valuable Player balloting for helping drive the Angels to their fifth AL West title in six years, watched the team plunge to third place with its worst record in seven years after he was lost for the season.
After taking batting and fielding practice on Thursday, Morales ran under the supervision of the training staff on the outfield grass with a visible limp. It appears that he'll need to make significant improvement very quickly to be ready to play by Sunday in a camp game or Cactus League game against Colorado in Scottsdale.
"The rehab process is a delicate one," Morales said. "The flexibility is not there yet. I don't feel pain ... just a lack of mobility. I'm just tight."
In Morales' absence, Trumbo has put on an impressive exhibition of power hitting, ranking among the Major League leaders in homers, RBIs, doubles and slugging.
According to Scioscia, Trumbo might take three or four days off after tweaking a groin running the bases on Wednesday in Scottsdale against Arizona.
Trumbo said his groin was much better on Thursday, but Scioscia indicated that "it wouldn't hurt him to take a little blow now. He's played a lot. He just looks a little stiff."
Brandon Wood, Bobby Wilson and Howard Kendrick are on the depth chart at first base behind Morales and Trumbo.
Morales said Trumbo's impressive display of power and solid glove work at first haven't impacted him, that it won't necessarily alleviate any urgency about hurrying back by Opening Day or soon after.
"My goal is to get ready," Morales said. "I'm not thinking about Trumbo or anybody."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.