Kendrys' bounce-back season a big success
ANAHEIM -- No, Kendrys Morales isn't all the way back yet. But it's safe to say that at the start of the year, as he was making his return from two ankle surgeries that forced him to miss almost two full seasons, everybody in the organization would've been excited about a final OPS of around .800.
"Tickled -- as I am today," general manager Jerry Dipoto said. "We couldn't even really comfortably pencil in an idea of what Kendrys might deliver. We entered Spring Training only hopeful that he'd be back."
The expectations are different now, because with only nine regular-season games remaining, Morales sports a .277 batting average with 22 homers, 71 RBIs and an .801 OPS heading into Tuesday, starting 113 of the team's 154 games while sitting against left-handed starters. He's also proven he can handle first base on more than an emergency basis, showing some impressive defense while making 24 fill-in starts at the position Albert Pujols is expected to occupy for nine more years.
"For the time I had away, I think I'm having a good season," Morales, who finished 2009 with a .924 OPS, said in Spanish. "I would've liked to produce more and help the team even more, but the time off, with regards to getting the timing from pitchers and stuff, it was a little difficult with the time off. But you have to be happy, because if you look at the time I've missed, I think I had a good year."
This offseason, the Angels may have an interesting decision to make with the 29-year-old Morales.
On one hand, there's the healthy bump he'll get, via his final arbitration year, from his $2.975 million salary in 2012, and that he seems likely to depart via free agency during next year's offseason, given his preference to be more than just a DH and that Scott Boras represents him.
But Morales' left-handed presence behind Pujols is crucial to the Angels -- and his best baseball may still be ahead of him.
"My belief is that he'll only get better from here," Dipoto, a former scout, said. "He's now in as good a baseball shape as he's been in all year, he's swinging the bat comfortably, I think his bat speed has improved from Opening Day until today, his flexibility.
"He's had a very nice year, he's done it very consistently from the time he stepped on the field in Spring Training. And when you can't even comfortably pencil in an idea of what he might give you in terms of production, and then to wake up in mid-September and you're staring at an .800 OPS, it's a very positive thing."
Ervin to get extra rest, start Saturday in Texas
ANAHEIM -- Ervin Santana sure is getting a lot of extra time off lately. The Angels' starter pitched on eight days' rest against the White Sox last Friday, twirling seven innings of one-run ball in a win, and will start this Saturday's game in Texas on seven days' rest.
These days, everyone is essentially fitting in around Jered Weaver and Zack Greinke, the only two Angels starters who remain on a five-day schedule. This time around, manager Mike Scioscia opted to keep Dan Haren on normal rest, starting him in Thursday's series finale against the Mariners -- with Greinke and C.J. Wilson respectively starting the first two games -- and pushing Santana way back.
The reason is two-fold ...
1. Santana is pitching very well lately, posting a 2.49 ERA in his last seven starts, and it seems Scioscia would prefer to pitch him against the tougher lineup. Weaver is slated to pitch the series opener at Rangers Ballpark, with Greinke on track for the finale.
2. The extra rest means Santana gets only one more regular-season start and Haren gets two. But it sets Santana up to be available out of the bullpen in the final series in Seattle next week.
"I think it gives us some flexibility in the back side," Scioscia said, "and also it gets Dan in a good position."
Weaver is lined up to pitch the regular-season finale on Oct. 3. If the Angels need to play a tiebreaker game on Oct. 4, Santana could start if he isn't used out of the bullpen. Another option could be starting Greinke on three days' rest, but given how cautious they've been with his pitch count this year, that would appear unlikely.
"I don't know if you're going to rule out anything when you get to the situation that we're in," Scioscia said, "but you have to balance your enthusiasm for trying to get your best arms out there with a little discretion with how many innings guys have under them and how they're feeling."
Angels switch Class A affiliate, but stay in Iowa
ANAHEIM -- The Angels announced Tuesday that they have parted ways with their Class A affiliate in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and have instead signed a two-year player-development contract with the Burlington Bees, also of Iowa.
The Angels' Class A affiliate resided in Cedar Rapids for the last 20 years, with players from Jarrod Washburn to Mike Trout coming through there. The Angels are the Bees' 14th Major League affiliation since 1962.
"We maintain an organizational commitment to building excellence at both the Major and Minor League levels, while placing a high value on strong communities and affiliations in the process," Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. "With this in mind, we are excited to welcome the good people of Burlington to the Angels family, while looking forward to a long and successful partnership."
The Angels' Rookie Level (Orem), advanced Class A (Inland Empire), Double-A (Arkansas) and Triple-A (Salt Lake, also named the Bees) affiliates will all remain in place through 2014.
By scoring two runs in the Angels' 5-4 win over the Mariners on Tuesday, Mike Trout tied the Angels' single-season record with 124, set by Vladimir Guerrero in 2004.
For the second time in four days, Maicer Izturis started in place of Howie Kendrick at second base with a right-handed starter on the mound. Manager Mike Scioscia said the decision was made simply because lefties have hit Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez better than righties this year.
On Saturday, Angels owner Arte Moreno gave Scioscia a public endorsement, telling MLB.com that he'd "100 percent" return next season. On Tuesday, Scioscia downplayed the significance of that within the clubhouse, saying: "I think these guys are focused on the task at hand and what we need to do. I don't think anything that was going on was a discussion to these guys, so now that it's resolved I don't think it's really a relief [for the players]."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.