03/24/12 1:27 AM ET
Morales' first homer important in many ways
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
But it counted in so many other ways.
"It's been almost two years since connecting on one," said Morales, whose last home run was the May 29, 2010, walk-off grand slam that broke his left ankle and halted his promising baseball career. "I felt pretty good mentally. I feel like it lifted my spirits a little bit."
Playing in only his second Cactus League game, Morales found himself in the cleanup spot behind Albert Pujols, which is where the Angels expect him to bat when the games start counting. In his first at-bat, from the left side of the plate, Morales took righty Josh Tomlin out to right-center field and trotted around the bases.
This time, there was no stomping on home plate.
The 28-year-old switch-hitter singled to the right side in his second plate appearance, then struck out as a right-handed hitter his third time up. He is now 4-for-6 in his first two Cactus League games and is expected to suit up for his third straight when the Angels travel to Surprise to face the Rangers on Saturday.
Morales feels his timing is a little better from the left side because naturally he sees more right-handed pitching, but feels it's only a matter of time before he catches up from the right side.
"The only thing I know is that I've returned pretty well considering the time I've missed," Morales said.
The recovering slugger had a bit of a scary moment while on third base in the fourth inning, when he went to tag up on a shallow fly ball to center field. He had to stop quickly on his recovering left ankle and was then tagged out with minimal effort. Morales saw the stop sign from third-base coach Dino Ebel but saw Jason Donald playing back and thought he could score.
He thought wrong.
"The fans saw it kind of strange that I stopped like that," Morales said. "But [the left ankle] didn't bother me at all."
Haren gets in sync with new batterymate
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Opening Day is only 14 days away, but Friday was the first time Dan Haren and new Angels catcher Chris Iannetta were able to work together in a game.
As for how long it will take the pair to establish a rapport with one another?
"Just a time or two out there," Haren estimated. "Even throwing from the fifth inning to the first inning was a big difference. I would imagine next time would be pretty smooth, and if there's one more time after that, I would expect us to be in a good rhythm. He does his homework, he's smart, he's been around for a while, so he knows what he's doing. He's not like a rookie catcher coming in learning a staff."
Haren, who threw to Jeff Mathis, who was traded to Toronto in the offseason, in 25 of his 35 outings last year, gave up two runs on five hits and a walk in five innings -- with most of the damage coming in a laborious fourth inning -- against the Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park, giving him a 1.80 ERA through what has been an impressive 15 innings this spring. The Angels won, 6-3.
With Haren's outings all coming on the road, and Iannetta missing a few days with a sore elbow, the two didn't match up until Haren's fourth outing, though they did work together in a few bullpen sessions.
"As the game went on, we were more in sync," said Haren, who threw 67 pitches in the game, then another 10 in the bullpen. "But it's going to be a learning process, and I would expect him to catch me next time and the time after that. It's been tough. He's got to catch so many guys."
Scioscia opts to carry extra position players
TEMPE, Ariz. -- With the Angels not needing a fifth starter until April 15, manager Mike Scioscia's preference is to use the temporarily open roster spot on an additional bench player rather than another bullpen arm.
That means the door is open for Alexi Amarista, Jorge Cantu, Andrew Romine and Ryan Langerhans -- though Scioscia didn't dismiss the seemingly unlikely scenario of starting the season with three catchers.
"A lot of guys who are on that bench are going to be fighting for it," Scioscia said. "We can't bring them all, obviously, but there are some guys in that pool of players that will probably get a longer look than they might have, just because we'll be at 11 pitchers instead of 12."
Chris Iannetta, Mark Trumbo, Alberto Callaspo, Maicer Izturis, Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales (if his health continues), Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and the backup catcher (either the out-of-options Bobby Wilson or the younger Hank Conger) will make up the first 13 position players.
Amarista, Cantu, Romine and Langerhans would each offer something different as the final bench guy.
Cantu, who has a May 1 opt-out in his contract, is the most accomplished of the group and is having a nice spring, but can really only play the corner infield and the Angels have plenty of options there. Langerhans, another veteran with a later opt-out, can hold value because of his lefty bat and his ability to be a defensive substitution at all three outfield spots, but hasn't really impressed in Cactus League play.
Romine and Amarista, who each have options left, were up with the club last year and offer varying degrees of versatility.
Amarista can play the middle infield and all three outfield positions, can be used as a pinch-runner and has had a very good spring so far. Mostly a shortstop, Romine also has minimal experience at third and second base, can also be used as a pinch-runner and -- unlike the lefty-hitting Amarista -- is a switch-hitter. But Romine hasn't had as good a spring.
Angels sign former Mariners pitcher Pauley
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Angels agreed to terms on a Minor League contract with veteran right-hander David Pauley on Friday. Pauley won't be invited to big league camp, but will probably appear in some Cactus League games and may eventually help provide some depth in the Angels' bullpen or starting rotation.
Pauley put up a 2.15 ERA in 39 relief appearances for the Mariners at the start of 2011 -- his only full season in the Majors -- but a 5.95 ERA in 14 games for the Tigers down the stretch. The 28-year-old has posted a 4.52 ERA in parts of four seasons in the big leagues, with 20 of his 81 appearances -- and the vast majority of his Minor League outings -- coming as a starter.
The Angels could use some depth to their pitching staff right now, with fifth-starter candidate Jerome Williams still recovering from a strained left hamstring and reliever Bobby Cassevah out of action with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Wilson vs. Darvish won't spring into action
TEMPE, Ariz. -- One expected scenario was made official by Angels manager Mike Scioscia on Friday morning: C.J. Wilson will not be pitching against the Rangers this spring.
The Angels play Wilson's former club on back-to-back days this weekend and Wilson's start lines up for Sunday, when the Angels host the Rangers at Tempe Diablo Stadium. But instead, the newly signed left-hander will start on a back field against the Triple-A Cubs to get in the six-inning, 90-pitch range.
The Rangers are doing something similar with their new arm, Yu Darvish, who will make his scheduled Sunday start in an intrasquad game at the Rangers' complex, instead of traveling to face his new American League West rivals.
And, thus, the baseball world has been robbed of what would've been an awfully intriguing spring pitching matchup.
But Scioscia will tell you that had little to do with any chess match between the two rivals.
"We need to get our team ready and our guys ready," the Angels skipper said on Thursday. "That's first and foremost. I don't think keeping them away from a team is part of the equation of what we're looking at."
Ervin Santana will start against the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz., on Saturday. Right-hander Trevor Bell will start in Wilson's place on Sunday.
Reliever Bobby Cassevah is throwing bullpen sessions but still hasn't appeared in a Cactus League game, and won't until the inflammation in his right shoulder settles down. Scioscia said Cassevah is still day to day.
Langerhans was feeling ill and was scratched from Friday night's split-squad game against the Indians. Matt Long started in his place in center field.
Trumbo had an impressive game against the Brewers on Friday, with a nice defensive play and his third spring homer. In the fifth inning, Trumbo made a diving stop to his left on a hard-hit grounder by Rickie Weeks, then recovered and got the forceout at second base. In the eighth, he hit a solo shot to right-center field off Francisco Rodriguez, providing another example of why the Angels will try to get his bat in the lineup as often as possible.
"He's not there yet, but we have the feeling that he has the potential to be a terrific third baseman and make the plays he has to," Scioscia said. "It's going to take a little time, but he's making the routine plays and he made a real nice one today."
If Scoiscia makes a late-game defensive substitution for Trumbo at third base during the regular season, he'd use Callaspo over Izturis, who's better suited for the middle infield.
Closer Jordan Walden gave up four runs and recorded only one out against the Royals on Tuesday, but bounced back against Milwaukee -- giving up a hit and striking out two in a scoreless sixth inning. "Much better," Scioscia said. "Jordan was excellent."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and 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.