Kendrys Morales on target for opener

Updated: March 11, 2012, 3:56 PM ET
By Mark Saxon |

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Suddenly, the smart money is on Kendrys Morales hitting behind Albert Pujols on opening night.

Morales passed his biggest hurdle of the spring Sunday morning, running the bases, and reported no pain afterward. It now looks like he'll be playing in games by the end of next week and, if he can avoid setbacks, be on target to be the Los Angeles Angels' Opening Day designated hitter.

"The confidence grows with every time he goes out there and does something positive," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. When someone asked him if Morales still has time to be ready for the opener, Scioscia said, "Absolutely."

The next question is how effective Morales will be. He hasn't played in a competitive baseball game since May 29, 2010, when he fractured his leg hopping onto home plate in celebration of a game-winning home run. He looks great in batting practice, but he still hasn't faced a pitcher throwing 90 mph and up. He hasn't dealt with game adrenaline and how his ankle reacts to playing for a week straight.

"There are still hurdles," Scioscia said.

But he might have cleared the tallest one Sunday morning.

Mark Saxon
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.