Kendrys Morales back after 2 years

Updated: March 23, 2012, 12:23 AM ET
By Mark Saxon | ESPNLosAngeles.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Angels slugger Kendrys Morales played his first game against major league competition in nearly two years on Thursday, singling twice in three at-bats.

Morales
Morales

Counting spring training, the Angels had played 322 games without Morales since he fractured his left ankle hopping onto home plate after a game-winning home run on May 29, 2010.

Batting right-handed against Kansas City Royals left-hander Danny Duffy in his first official at-bat since being injured, Morales dribbled a single through the right side of the infield.

"Everyone was waiting for me to come back and play a major league game," Morales said through an interpreter. "I did that today and I'm thinking now everything will be smooth sailing."

Morales ran from first to third base on Bobby Abreu's double to left field and afterward said he felt no discomfort in his ankle. He also singled up the middle while batting left-handed in the fifth inning.

The Angels are hopeful Morales will be their cleanup hitter and offer lineup protection for newly acquired slugger Albert Pujols, but they're easing Morales back into action. He was at designated hitter on Thursday, batting sixth.

In 2009, Morales batted .306 with 34 home runs and 108 RBIs, finishing fifth in MVP balloting. He was on a similar trajectory before the freak injury in 2010.

If Morales is healthy and productive, the Angels could have their most dangerous lineup yet under manager Mike Scioscia. The Nos. 3-7 hitters in their lineup all have reached the 25-home run mark at least once in their careers. The Angels finished 10th in runs scored last season.

"The potential is to be every bit as deep as we've ever seen here," Scioscia said.

Morales had played in three minor league games before Thursday and the Angels are hopeful he can get 40-50 at-bats in order to be ready for Opening Day. A first baseman, Morales figures to play almost exclusively at DH this season.

The Angels hoped he could return in time for the 2011 season, but his rehab was set back by inflammation and pain caused by scar tissue and debris in the vicinity of the ankle. He underwent a second operation last May.

"I've been two years out now and I'm feeling like I can be ready by Opening Day," Morales said. "I'm going to be really happy if I can."

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. 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.

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