PHOENIX -- After a rather unflattering season in 2011, Vernon Wells tinkered with his batting stance and changed his approach. Against the Athletics on Monday, Wells was finally able to put that in game mode and already got some favorable results -- knocking in two runs and hitting two hard line drives in his first two plate appearances.
"I think the main thing is my swing is back to being short," said Wells, who had the lowest batting average and on-base percentage in the Majors last year. "When my swing is short, I swing at good pitches, lay off tough pitches and put a lot more consistent swings on the pitches I need to be hitting hard. Lining out was good to see, especially early on, just knowing if I get a good pitch to hit, put a good swing on it and don't really try to do too much."
Wells, who worked with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo in the offseason, stands a little more upright in the batter's box and has incorporated a new timing mechanism in hopes of staying short with his swing and driving more pitches up the middle.
In the first inning against right-hander Brad Peacock, Wells -- batting in the No. 5 spot -- lined a two-run single to center field. He then lined out hard to left field in the third, drew a walk in the fourth and flied out to right field in the fifth.
"You're going to go through [ups and downs] during the season," Wells said. "It's just a matter of trying to stay consistent with my approach no matter what the outcome is."
Big week to determine Morales' game status
PHOENIX -- It may not be hyperbole to call this the most important week Kendrys Morales has had since stomping on home plate on that fateful May 29, 2010, afternoon.
On Monday, Morales began making turns on the infield dirt. Later this week, bases are expected to be added to the mix. And if all that goes well, the recovering slugger should finally be playing in games again.
"He has some important hurdles this week," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before his club opened up its Cactus League schedule at the Athletics' facility. "You have to be able to run at a certain level to play this game. You have to break out of the batter's box and run at a certain level and keep a degree of comfort in his ankle to where he can swing the bat. Those hurdles have not been crossed yet."
Before they put him in games, the Angels also plan on incorporating some sliding drills with Morales, who slides with his left leg out and his right leg tucked in.
Morales, out of any game action with a broken left ankle for the last 1 1/2 seasons, is already on a better track than he was last year -- when he had just one day of pain-free sprinting before it all went downhill. The 28-year-old switch-hitter continues to feel no next-day soreness and is confident he'll work his way back to the lineup by Opening Day.
Optimism aside, though, Morales still needs to clear these final hurdles, still needs to get re-accustomed to Major League pitching and still needs to hold up through the rigors of a 162-game season.
"This will be an important week for him," Scioscia said. "We're definitely excited where he is, but with the understanding that the last 10 percent a player is trying to get is sometimes elusive. We don't anticipate that. ... Has our comfort level soared because of where he is right now? I'll say it has gradually increased from when we saw him taking ground balls and swinging in January. That comfort level has grown."
Lineup unveiled, but frequent changes expected
PHOENIX -- The first glimpse of an Angels lineup was seen on Monday morning, hours before the Cactus League opener at the Athletics' facility.
It went like this: Erick Aybar (shortstop), Howie Kendrick (second base), Albert Pujols (first base), Torii Hunter (right field), Vernon Wells (left field), Alberto Callaspo (third base), Chris Iannetta (catcher), Peter Bourjos (center field), Hank Conger (designated hitter).
How much of that will translate into the regular season?
Well, Bobby Abreu -- originally slated to bat sixth as the DH -- was scratched after feeling too ill to play. Kendrys Morales (left ankle) and Mark Trumbo (right foot) will surely factor in once they work their way back. And considering the depth the Angels have at several positions, their lineup should change frequently.
But, similar to last year, Angels manager Mike Scioscia figures to use Aybar-Kendrick frequently at the top of the order. And Hunter, last year's main cleanup hitter, will probably continue to factor into the middle of the order.
"The groupings are going to vary," Scioscia said. "This is absolutely one lineup we're going to have, with Aybar-Kendrick one-two. We have a lot of things we can infuse into this lineup that are going to give us on-base, power, some different looks to match up versus certain pitchers. This is one look, but when you put Kendrys Morales between Pujols and Hunter, you've got a pretty good 3-4-5."
In the Angels' 9-1 win over the Athletics on Monday, Aybar (1-for-2 with two walks) and Kendrick (2-for-2 with a walk and a two-run homer) combined to get on base in six straight plate appearances.
Hunter went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in the cleanup spot.
Garrett Richards, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana are slated to start the next four games for the Angels, respectively.
Mark Trumbo stayed back at the Angels' facility in Tempe, Ariz., on Monday to run the bases. If all goes well, he could get in games at third base by the end of the week.
Bobby Abreu was originally slated to bat sixth as the designated hitter on Monday, but he was scratched and went home because he was feeling ill.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.