Angels first baseman Kendrys Morales has missed nearly two seasons since… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)
Kendrys Morales looks good, and he is not only walking without a limp, he's "bouncing around more than we anticipated," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said Tuesday.
Four months after undergoing a second season-ending surgery on his left ankle, the first baseman is walking vigorously on a treadmill set on an incline, lifting weights and undergoing physical therapy in Arizona.
There is no timetable for Morales to resume running or baseball activities, but the slugger is confident he will be ready to return for the 2012 season. He is not about to make any predictions, though.
"The doctors will determine my schedule -- I don't know that," Morales, speaking through an interpreter, said when asked about his winter timetable. "My goal is to be ready to go by opening day, but I haven't played in almost two years."
Morales, who hit .306 with 34 home runs and drove in 108 runs in 2009, broke the ankle May 29, 2010, when he jumped on home plate in celebration of a walk-off grand slam against the Seattle Mariners.
The switch-hitter had surgery, in which six screws were inserted into the bone, and sat out the remainder of the 2010 season.
The Angels were confident Morales would return in time for 2011, and Morales was taking batting practice and participating in fielding drills during spring training. But the ankle never healed well enough for him to run at full strength, and Morales decided in May to undergo a second procedure in which scar tissue and debris were removed and a bone graft was performed.
"From my first surgery to this one, I feel a lot of improvement," Morales said. "The biggest thing is the mental side, having to understand what it takes to get ready."
Morales finished fifth in American League most-valuable-player voting in 2009, but even if he returns at full strength in 2012, he knows it will be difficult to hit major league pitching for the first time in nearly two years.
"Obviously, the absence is going to affect me," Morales said. "But before the season, I plan to have 100 at-bats [in spring training], so I should be ready."
With the Angels eliminated from playoff contention Monday night, Scioscia pulled pitchers Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver from their final two scheduled starts.
Tyler Chatwood started Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers, and Garrett Richards will start Wednesday night's season finale.
Santana (11-12, 3.38 earned-run average) and Weaver (18-8, 2.41) have surpassed their career highs for innings pitched.
The move will cost Weaver a chance to win the AL ERA title. The right-hander needed to record two outs without giving up an earned run to pass Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who has a 2.39 ERA and made his final regular-season start Saturday.
"Obviously, there's a little something out there, but I'm not into the individual numbers; it's a team game," Weaver said. "The only way I would have gone back out there is if I was sitting on 19 [wins] and going for 20."
Said Scioscia: "We have to look out for these guys moving forward."
The Rangers hit five home runs, including two by former Angels catcher Mike Napoli, in a 10-3 win over the Angels on Tuesday night. Texas remained a game ahead of Detroit with one game left in the bid for home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Chatwood gave up four runs and seven hits in 22/3 innings, and the Rangers hit three consecutive home runs off Jerome Williams in the fifth inning, by Adrian Beltre, Napoli and Nelson Cruz. Beltre has homered in four straight games and seven of his last nine games and has 32 homers on the season.
Ian Kinsler also hit his 32nd homer, adding a double and a single. Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick was pulled in the fifth inning after suffering a sprained left wrist while diving for a grounder.