Angels infielder Kendrys Morales put his surgically repaired left ankle… (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)
Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — The two singles in three at-bats —- an opposite-field grounder through the right side and a line drive to center — were nice, but the real highlight of Kendrys Morales' first major league action in almost two years came on the basepaths.
Morales was on first in the second inning of Thursday's 7-4 exhibition victory over the Kansas City Royals when Bobby Abreu flared a double down the left-field line.
Morales — who hasn't played since he broke his left ankle while jumping onto home plate in celebration of a walk-off home run May 29, 2010, and had two operations since then — didn't hesitate as he rounded second, and he made it safely to third with a hard slide into the bag.
Although he didn't draw comparison to speedster Peter Bourjos, Morales did fuel hope that he might be able to return this season and join Albert Pujols in the middle of what could be the most prolific lineup in franchise history. Morales batted .306, with 34 homers and 108 RBIs in 2009.
"You could see when I went from first to third that everything is good," Morales said through an interpreter. "I think that demonstrated that I can be 100% on the field. The batting part is a matter of timing."
Morales, who will start at designated hitter again against Cleveland on Friday night, is confident he will be ready by opening day, though it may take a few weeks for him to work his way into the cleanup spot behind Pujols.
"Hopefully, we're going to see that," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "It's going to give us a deep look with both of those guys in the middle of the lineup."
Abreu isn't concerned about his paltry .138 (four for 29) spring average, the veteran outfielder saying he's trying to "feel good with my swing, my legs, my body, and to make good contact."
He should be worried. Abreu entered camp saying he preferred to be traded if he wasn't going to play every day, and he has done nothing since to warrant taking at-bats away from Morales, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter.
"He's definitely searching for some timing," Scioscia said. "Bobby can still hit … but I know it's going to help him to start squaring some balls up."
Abreu's $9-million salary and declining defensive skills make it virtually impossible for the Angels to trade the 38-year-old without swallowing most, if not all, of his contract. A tepid spring hasn't helped.
"I wasn't expecting Bobby to come in like a 24-year-old letting it all hang out and being in tune physically the first day of spring," General Manager Jerry Dipoto said. "But he's a veteran, he knows how to prepare, and you trust his ability."
No deal, no distraction
A pair of face-to-face meetings between Dipoto and Erick Aybar's agent last week failed to produce a contract extension, but the switch-hitting shortstop made it very clear he would prefer not to hit the market as a free agent next winter.
"I want to be here," said Aybar, who had three hits Thursday to raise his spring average to .436. "I'm staying focused. I don't want [contract negotiations] to be in my mind. I want to play baseball."
Reliever Hisanori Takahashi threw two scoreless, one-hit innings with a strikeout Thursday and has not given up a run in six spring innings. … Former Angels outfielder Garret Anderson will try his hand at television this season, doing 25 or so postgame shows on FS West telecasts of Angels games.