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03/20/11 7:51 PM ET

Morales to start season on disabled list

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In light of the plateau with a toe he has reached in his recovery from left ankle surgery, Kendrys Morales is headed for the 15-day disabled list to start the season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia confirmed on Sunday.

This had been the day Scioscia had projected for Morales to begin playing under game conditions to be ready for the March 31 opener in Kansas City, but the first baseman's recent issues with his left big toe have prevented him from cutting loose in his running sufficiently to clear the final hurdle.

"That's what's going to happen," Scioscia said when asked about Morales starting on the DL. "It would be wrong to try, even if he feels better in three or four days, to fire him up for Opening Day. That's not fair to ask of a guy [who is] getting ready for a long season.

"The good thing is that Kendrys has been able to hit and field. He just needs to see [game] velocity in the batter's box and [start] running. He's reached a plateau -- good word for it, since it's the toe. Underneath the ball of the foot is the crux of what's going on.

"The issue's with his shoes, his spikes; they're a little narrow. The ankle is where it should be. Hopefully, we're going to contain the issue with the toe, tone it down."

Morales fractured his lower left leg on May 29, jumping on home plate after a game-winning grand slam at Angel Stadium. He was fifth in the 2009 American League MVP balloting after a breakout year, hitting .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs. In 51 games last season, he batted .290 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs.

Mark Trumbo, who has put together impressive numbers this spring after a dominant season both in the Pacific Coast League and Venezuelan Winter League, is the heir apparent at first in Morales' absence. Also on the depth chart are Brandon Wood, Howard Kendrick, Bobby Wilson and Chris Pettit.

Pineiro out early from Triple-A game

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Angels right-hander Joel Pineiro departed after pitching two innings in a Triple-A camp game in Mesa against the Cubs, with what was described as back tightness under his right shoulder by the blade.

There was no immediate report on the extent of the ailment.

Pineiro had given up one hit and one walk in two scoreless innings with one strikeout. He threw 35 pitches.

In the midst of an excellent spring, Pineiro originally was set to go in the Cactus League game against the Rockies but was sent to Mesa to work under conditions that would allow the Angels to better monitor his work load. They wanted him to go six innings.

Before the game, manager Mike Scioscia said that the team "kept [Pineiro] back to make sure we can get him up six times [for six innings] -- and we won't have to worry about him hitting in a National League game."

Pineiro, who came back in September 2010 from a strained oblique that cost him six weeks, is 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in four Cactus League starts covering 13 innings. He was warming up for a start against the Red Sox at Angel Stadium when he sustained the oblique injury on July 28.

Matt Palmer was handed the assignment against Colorado in place of Pineiro, with Fernando Rodney, Hisanori Takahashi and Jordan Walden also making the trip.

Scisocia, who was ejected from Sunday's game in the third inning, did not think the back stiffness would cost Pineiro -- the team's fourth starter -- a turn in the rotation after the season opens on March 31 in Kansas City.

"There's a little bit of a buffer at the start of the season," Scioscia said, referring to two off-days in the first week that would allow the club to go with four starters if necessary. "He's stretched out enough it might not impact his start -- but when he starts. He might be folded back a little later."

As for getting tossed for questioning a runner crossing the plate as Vernon Wells was throwing out a man at second from center field, Scioscia said he was seeking an explanation from umpire Chris Tiller. "I didn't curse him," Scioscia said. "I guess he had enough."

In the event Pineiro does have to miss any starts, Scioscia said Trevor Bell and Palmer would be the leading candidates to move into the rotation.

Trumbo on the mend, takes infield practice

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Virtually certain to open the season at first base for the Angels with Kendrys Morales headed for the disabled list, Mark Trumbo's tight groin has mended sufficiently to allow him to take infield practice. But he is being withheld for another day or two for precautionary reasons, manager Mike Scioscia said.

With 47 Cactus League at-bats, Trumbo leads the Angels. He's batting .340 with a .766 slugging percentage after leading the Pacific Coast League last year with 36 homers and 122 RBIs, batting .301.

His bashing this spring is an extension of what he did in the high-level Venezuelan Winter League, which features a number of established Major League pitchers. Playing for Magallenas, Trumbo batted .336 with a .579 slugging mark. In 28 games, he had five homers and 21 RBIs.

"I'm feeling good about where I am overall," Trumbo said. "I think I'm ready to contribute at this level. This is what I've been striving for, an opportunity to play in the Major Leagues."

Trumbo felt some tightness in his groin running to first base against the D-backs on Wednesday.

"It got a lot better the next day and feels fine now," he said.

Izturis embraces the challenge of leading off

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- There is craft that goes into the leadoff role -- especially early on, when tones are set and attitudes formed.

"You want to make the pitcher work in the first inning," Maicer Izturis, the Angels' leading candidate to assume that role this season, said. "You want to see at least four or five pitches. Even if you fall behind 0-2, you have to try to foul off tough pitches, do whatever you can to stay alive.

"It helps the guys hitting behind you if you can make [the pitcher] work. They see more pitches that way and get a good idea what the guy is throwing. If the pitcher gets through the first inning throwing only five or six pitches, it gives him an advantage. He gets into his rhythm, gets confident."

Izturis embraces the challenge of leading off. He has studied Bobby Abreu intently, watching how his teammate is able to go consistently from 0-2 to 3-2 in counts by laying off pitchers' pitches, fouling off borderline strikes, making him work. It's one of the many subtle things Abreu does that the casual fan doesn't see.

"Bobby is the best at that," Izturis said. "I watch him all the time. He is always confident, no matter what the count is. He knows the strike zone and how to handle the bat."

A mutual respect has formed between Abreu and Izturis, both Venezuelan natives.

"Izzy is a very smart player," Abreu said. "He's aware of everything going on. Keeping him healthy is very important for us. He really knows how to play the game the right way."

Worth noting

Catcher Bobby Wilson took a day off to recover from a flu bug that has been going around the clubhouse. ... Reggie Willits' loss of playing time with a calf injury has improved Chris Pettit's chances of making the 25-man roster as a backup outfielder. Pettit, having recovered from shoulder surgery that cost him the 2010 season, has been lashing line drives with consistency and is a capable corner outfielder with good speed. ... Brandon Wood has six hits (two homers, two singles, double, triple) in his past 11 at-bats entering Sunday's game. Both Scottsdale products -- Wood and center fielder Peter Bourjos -- are not in Sunday's starting lineup against the Rockies. Alberto Callaspo is at third with Vernon Wells in center. Wood and Bourjos are available off the bench.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.