Angels Kendry Morales rounds the bases after hitting a grandslam May 29.
Tempe, Ariz. —
Even if Kendrys Morales' running program goes exactly as planned, with no setbacks, the earliest the Angels slugger would play in exhibition games is mid-March, Manager Mike Scioscia said Friday.
Morales has missed the last year and a half because of a broken left ankle, but if he regains his 2009 form, when he hit .306 with 34 homers and 108 runs batted in, he would team with Albert Pujols to give the Angels a lethal one-two punch in the middle of the order.
"There's a window we're looking at that has him in games around the end of the second week of March if he keeps progressing," Scioscia said. "But all those windows are flexible depending on how he feels. He still has to run turns, run on dirt, do agility drills."
Morales, who will likely be relegated to designated hitter this season, has been taking batting practice from both sides of the plate for a month, and he began running short sprints at about 75% on Monday.
If Morales is physically ready to play by the April 6 season opener but hasn't regained his stroke or timing at the plate, Scioscia would prefer he open the season with the Angels instead of on a minor-league rehabilitation assignment.
"The challenge is to hit major-league pitching, not triple-A pitching," Scioscia said. "You want a guy in the major leagues as quickly as possible so he can work out the rough edges."
In that scenario, Morales would probably hit sixth or seventh before working his way up the cleanup spot. Pujols would probably open as the cleanup hitter and move to the third spot when Morales is ready to bat fourth.
"The preference," Scioscia said, "is to have Kendrys hitting behind Albert as soon as possible."
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