Surgery on Morales' ankle put off
ANAHEIM -- Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Sunday morning, "There is no silver lining to something like this," but the team got a glimmer of good news about star first baseman Kendry Morales, who fractured his left ankle celebrating a game-winning grand slam the day before.
There's a chance Morales could return by the end of the season.
Team orthopedist Lewis Yocum said once surgery is performed -- and that was put off Sunday due to swelling -- Morales could begin putting weight on his leg within 4-6 weeks. After that, he would need to strengthen the leg and get into baseball activities, but the team is holding out hope that he could return in September.
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"There's never a good fracture for a professional athlete, but this is probably one of the better ones to have if you had to have one," Yocum said. "We're hopeful that he'll get back this season."
The Angels won't be waiting around in the meantime. Catcher Mike Napoli made his first major league appearance at first base Sunday -- and reserve infielder Robb Quinlan was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake -- but general manager Tony Reagins said he will look into a trade or free-agent signing if it becomes available.
The big-ticket item would be trading for an established slugger. Two options are Paul Konerko, who makes $12 million this year with the Chicago White Sox and was pursued by the Angels as a free agent four years ago, or Lance Berkman, who's making $14.5 million with the Houston Astros. But the Angels also will look into signing one of the available free agents, such as Jermaine Dye and Carlos Delgado.
"There are players out there that are free agents and players that are on other clubs that could help us," Reagins said, "but at this point we're going to explore internally."
The Angels held a team meeting Sunday morning in which Scioscia laid down new parameters for celebrating game-winning home runs. He described the circumstances of Morales' injury -- in which he slipped on the plate after leaping into a scrum of his celebrating teammates -- as "sickening."
"Yesterday's event was terrible and it was something that I think we need to address," Scioscia said. "It's happened before in baseball. It's not going to happen again here. We need to do a better job than to get hurt in a dogpile scenario celebrating a win."
Asked what the new guidelines were, Scioscia said, "Any other way than the way we did yesterday."
"He just said, 'Give a guy space and, you know, just easy-going,'" Bobby Abreu said. "We understand that."
The new policy on home plate celebrations was put to the test in short order as the Angels beat the Mariners 9-7 on Sunday on Howie Kendrick's two-run blast in the ninth inning. Kendrick had a clear path and touched home plate the normal way as his jubulant teamates ran on the field and kept a safe distance from the foul line before mobbing him.
"I wasn't thinking about the celebration when I was rounding the bases. I was just thinking that we won the ballgame," Kendrick said. "I just wanted to get to home plate so we could celebrate. It was awesome. I wouldn't say it was strange, but it was safe. And if that's going to keep guys from getting hurt, I'm all for it."
The Angels will have a hard time replacing Morales' production: He led the team in home runs (11), RBIs (39) and batting average (.290). According to one number -- Win Probability Added -- Morales is easily the Angels least-replaceable player. Morales finished fifth in MVP voting last November and was in the process of replicating, or improving on, most of his numbers.
The Angels entered Sunday with a record of 24-27, 3½ games behind the first-place Oakland A's.
"We thought it was tough before. It's even tougher now," Napoli said. "We're all going to have to come together, play as a team and try to win any way we can."
Scioscia is hoping a few struggling hitters -- namely Juan Rivera, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and Hideki Matsui -- can improve to help collectively make up for losing the team's most productive hitter.
"As we talk about the whole team, with 4-5 guys in our lineup that have been underperforming woefully, if they can get in their game, we're going to absorb some of this and move on," Scioscia said.
Napoli likely isn't the long-term solution at first base, at least until Jeff Mathis returns from the disabled list -- probably in 10 days or so. The Angels are only carrying two catchers on the 25-man roster. Bobby Wilson started behind the plate Sunday. Napoli has played in 68 minor league games as a first baseman, most recently in 2006.
Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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