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News » AMERICAN LEAGUE 2009-05-04


AMERICAN LEAGUE 2009-05-04


AMERICAN LEAGUE 2009-05-04
After Kendry Morales hit his first home run of the season, a three-run shot in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers on April 22, Manager Mike Scioscia said, "You could almost see him exhale."

Morales was batting .234 with four runs batted in before that game, raising some concern -- among Angels fans more than coaches and front-office executives -- that the Cuban switch-hitter was not ready to be a big league regular.

But since that night in Anaheim, Morales is batting .343 (12 for 35) with four home runs and 11 RBIs in nine games, raising his batting average to .280 before Sunday's game against the New York Yankees, which was rained out.

And he's looking more like a capable replacement, at least offensively, for first baseman Mark Teixeira, who left the Angels to sign with the Yankees last winter.

"When a guy finally gets an opportunity to play every day, the adjustments start to click in," Scioscia said. "He's learning the league, understanding pitchers.

"He's had some rough games mixed in with some terrific games, but all in all, he looks pretty comfortable in the [batter's] box. He still has a lot of upside, but right now he's doing a great job."

Morales, through a translator, admitted "it was good to see that ball fly out of there" against the Tigers, but it wasn't as if an overwhelming sense of relief led to his offensive surge.

"It may have looked that way, but I felt I was swinging the bat good," Morales, 25, said. "I just needed to make a mechanical adjustment. I was collapsing on my back side too much, my bat was dropping, and I had to rush to get to the ball. I'm better balanced."

Defensively, Morales is still very much a work in progress. He has made great strides at first base since his first spring training with the Angels , in 2006, when coaches nicknamed him "Brick Hands," but he is still learning the nuances of the position.

Among his biggest challenges is determining when to go for ground balls to his right and when to retreat to the bag and let second baseman Howie Kendrick make the play.

Several times this season, Morales has ranged into the hole and not reached grounders, forcing Kendrick to throw to the pitcher, a moving target, covering first base, a more difficult play than the traditional throw to the first baseman.

"I've never played with Howie, and now I'm playing every day with him and getting used to his range to his left," Morales said. "Before every pitch, I look to see where he is.

"In the past week, I've gotten a better idea of when to go after the ball, but if it's hit hard to my right, I have to knock it down."

Morales has committed one error this season. He had trouble digging balls out of the dirt in spring training and early in the season, but he has been doing a better job lately of scooping low throws. He has looked good throwing to second base on double-play attempts.

"Right side defense is something we pay a lot of attention to, and some of that chemistry is forming," Scioscia said. "Kendry has good hands and a great arm. It's in him to play good defense."

Offensively, the Angels believe Morales has the potential to hit about .280 with 20 homers and 85 RBIs. Though he leads the team with 18 strikeouts, he ranks third with 16 RBIs in 22 games.

"I don't have specific goals in term of numbers," Morales said. "Mainly, I want to finish strong and let the numbers take care of themselves. My goal is to play my best and help the team win a championship."

--

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: May 4, 2009

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