Swelling delays Morales' surgery a week
Doctor optimistic slugger won't miss entire season
ANAHEIM -- The bad news was the swelling was so bad in Kendry Morales' fractured left ankle he couldn't be operated on as scheduled on Sunday morning. The good news was that the Angels don't expect their cleanup hitter to miss the entire season -- even if there could be a void at first base for most of it.
"When we saw him at the hospital it became apparent it was premature to consider surgery," Angels medical director Lewis Yocum said in the Angel Stadium press box just before first pitch Sunday. "He had an awful lot of swelling. We thought it was the best decision, to wait and delay the surgery until it's appropriate."
Yocum expected the swelling would subside sufficiently within a week, at which point Morales, who is wearing a cast, would undergo a procedure called open reduction internal fixation. Morales would not be able to perform weight-bearing activities until four to six weeks afterward, and he likely will have a metal plate and screws inserted into his leg. Those will not necessarily become a hindrance to Morales -- Juan Rivera still has a plate in place after he broke his leg in the winter of 2006.
"Some people leave it in forever, some people take it out if it's become symptomatic," Yocum said. "Each player's a little different."
Once Morales can put weight back onto the leg, he'll have to build up his strength and get back into playing condition, a road of unknown length.
"September's not out of the question," Yocum said.
The fashion in which the Angels lost Morales still wore on the team Sunday. Morales hit a walk-off grand slam on Saturday in a 5-1 win over the Mariners and slipped on home plate as he jumped, in celebration, into a crowd of his teammates.
"It's sickening to lose a player in the way that we lost Kendry. The best way to put it is it's just sickening," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Yesterday's event was terrible, and it was something that we need to address. It's happened before in baseball -- it's not going to happen again here. We need to do a little better job than to get hurt in a dog-pile scenario celebrating a win. So we put together some guidelines, our guys will be great."
Without their leader in average, home runs and RBIs, general manager Tony Reagins said the team could look outside the organization for help but first will turn to the players they have in-house. Repeatedly when talking to the media before Sunday's game, Scioscia threw direct pressure on his regulars -- not to fill Morales' shoes, but to carry their own weight.
"When you're trying to replace a guy like Kendry Morales, you just don't have hitters of his caliber that are on the depth chart," Scioscia said. "The four or five guys we have in our lineup that are underperforming -- I mean woefully -- if they can get into their game, I think we're going to absorb some of this and move on."
Mike Napoli, who played 68 games at first base in the Minors, made his first start and appearance at first base in the Majors on Sunday afternoon against the Mariners. Napoli, batting .256 with seven home runs, is the hot hand: All of his homers have come in May.
"Field a ground ball and flip it to the pitcher, catch a ball when it's thrown to me, simple as that," Napoli said of the adjustment. "It's not like I've ever been out there playing."
Trading for a replacement, at least right now, might not be an easy option either. The Trade Deadline is two months away, so the market may not have shaped yet, and other teams may perceive the Angels as desperate.
"Any trade you want to get value for value," Reagins said. "Obviously this situation seems to be a challenge, but not as much of a challenge that we can't overcome."
Carlos Delgado and Jermaine Dye top the list of hitters on the free agent market, and Lance Berkman of the Astros has been rumored to be available by trade. Reagins did not directly address any specific players.
"We're going to explore what we have internally at this point," Reagins said. "Obviously, there's players out there, free agents and players on other clubs, that can potentially help us."
On the roster now is Howard Kendrick, who played 44 games at first base in 2006, his debut season in the big leagues. Michael Ryan has never played first base in the big leagues but did work at the position this spring and played four games there for Triple-A Salt Lake this season. Brandon Wood, who is to start a rehab stint with Salt Lake on Sunday on his way back from a strained hip flexor, also played four games at first base last season.
The most natural option the Angels have left at first base, according to Scioscia, was called up from Salt Lake on Sunday in place of Morales: Robb Quinlan. Still in Salt Lake is 24-year-old Mark Trumbo, who's batting .275 with 11 home runs and 40 RBIs through 47 games. Reagins called Trumbo "an option, but not our first option" and cautioned against rushing a young player that he said needs more seasoning.
There's catcher Jeff Mathis' potential return, too, which might free up Napoli to play first base more often. Mathis, sidelined since April with a fractured right wrist, is scheduled to take live batting practice in Kansas City on Tuesday and could see a rehab assignment next week.
That might be getting too far ahead though. Hideki Matsui homered in the cleanup spot Sunday, but Scioscia said nothing was set for Monday and beyond.
"We're considering anything right now," Scioscia said. "I think there's a lot of variables out there, a lot of things that can happen that can. We're not worried about 10 days from now, we're going to get through this day by day and see where we are."
The Angels held a closed-door team meeting two hours before game time Sunday morning, with Morales' injury a focal point. Players didn't emerge for a half hour, but Scioscia said the meeting lasted only four to five minutes.
The Angels didn't offer specific changes to their celebration routine, saying only there would be some.
"Any way other than we did it yesterday," Scioscia said.
Added Reagins: "I think this is an eye opener to not only baseball, but all sports as to how to celebrate after that type of win. We've addressed our club."
Some of the Angels players, though, looked at the situation as just plain bad luck.
"You can't hit a walk-off grand slam and all hang our heads and pat each other on the head, you know that's not going to happen," Napoli said. "We're grown men. We won a game and an unfortunate thing happened."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.