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Angels' Kendrys Morales is taking positive steps

First baseman, who hasn't played in a year and a half because of a broken ankle that required two surgeries, plans to increase running to a near sprint. He expects to be ready for the start of the season.

February 19, 2012|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels slugger Kendrys Morales hits a two-run home run against the Detroit Tigers at Angel Stadium in the 2010 season.
Angels slugger Kendrys Morales hits a two-run home run against the Detroit… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. -- The news from Angels camp had a familiar ring. Kendrys Morales said he will increase his running to a near sprint Monday, the next step in his return from a broken left ankle that has sidelined him for a year and a half.

The slugger, who in 2009 hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in, also predicted he would be ready to open the season, which would be a huge boost to a club looking for a cleanup hitter to protect new first baseman Albert Pujols.

Of course, Morales expressed the same sentiments last spring and never progressed to running the bases, undergoing a second surgery on his ankle and sitting out the season.

But in an interview with two Spanish-speaking reporters Sunday, Morales said the ankle feels "a lot better" than it did last spring, and he has experienced no swelling while hitting from both sides of the plate and jogging for the last month.

"This year, I've felt a lot better compared to last year — I can do any exercises they give me," Morales told mlb.com. "Very different from last year. I think for the start [of the season] I should be ready.

The Angels want Morales, a first baseman, to focus on running and hitting and project him more as a designated hitter this season.

"We'll fold in other aspects and defense much later down the road," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "Without that pressure of having to play first base … I think we're more optimistic that he can reach a level to fill the need we have as far as swinging from the left side and bringing that presence behind Albert."

Final hurdle

Mark Trumbo, slowed all off-season by a stress fracture in his right foot, will undergo a CT scan Feb. 28, after which the slugger hopes to be cleared to run and resume full baseball activities.

The first baseman, who led the Angels with 29 homers and 87 RBIs last season, has been taking batting practice and fielding ground balls at third base, a position the Angels, who locked up Pujols for 10 years, hope Trumbo can play 40 to 50 games this season.

Short hops

Reliever Kevin Jepsen, who underwent surgery in July to repair a ligament in his right knee, said he began throwing off a mound in January and has been cleared for full participation in spring workouts. A key member of the Angels bullpen in 2009 and 2010, the right-hander hopes to win his big league job back. … Former major league players Gary Varsho and Jeff Cirillo have been hired by the Angels as professional scouts.

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

twitter.com/MikeDiGiovanna

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