04/14/12 6:30 PM ET
Kendrys slowly adjusting to grind of season
By Alden Gonzalez / MLB.com
Eight games into the season, though, the Angels designated hitter seems to have hit a wall.
Morales went 0-for-5 on Saturday and is now just 1-for-23 with seven strikeouts since going 4-for-4 in the second game of the season. Even worse, Morales -- who has batted cleanup behind Albert Pujols in five of his seven starts, including Saturday -- doesn't have a single RBI yet.
"I haven't felt well adjusted just yet," Morales, now batting .200 on the year, said in Spanish, prior to his club's 7-1 win over the Yankees. "I've had good swings, but I haven't been able to make good contact. You just have to give it a little bit more time to adjust a little bit.
"I think it has a little bit to do with the amount of time I went without playing. I think as I start seeing more pitches, I'll keep getting better."
Morales missed nearly two full seasons with a broken left ankle and didn't get back into Major League games until his Cactus League debut on March 22 -- a span of nearly 22 months.
The 28-year-old Morales swung the bat well immediately upon returning, finishing Spring Training with a .367 batting average (11-for-30) and two homers. But pitchers tend to attack hitters differently in April than they do in March, and so far, Morales has been swinging at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone.
"I think he's just getting re-acclimated to the season, re-acclimated to the grind," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He'll get there."
Mills' stint with Angels is short-lived
NEW YORK -- The Angels' reeling bullpen underwent more turnover on Saturday, with right-hander Rich Thompson being designated for assignment.
The Angels recalled soft-tossing lefty Brad Mills from Triple-A Salt Lake to take Thompson's place on the roster, then sent Mills back after Saturday's 7-1 win over the Yankees in order to make room for Sunday's starter, Jerome Williams.
Thompson posted a 3.00 ERA in 54 innings last year, his first full season in the Majors, striking out 9.3 batters per nine innings and posting a 1.22 WHIP. But the 27-year-old right-hander struggled in tough spots, with opponents posting a .761 on-base plus slugging percentage against him in what Baseball-Reference.com refers to as high-leverage situations.
The Angels now have 10 days to waive, trade or release Thompson. With an average fastball velocity of 94 mph and a good curveball, Thompson is unlikely to make it through waivers unclaimed. But Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Thompson's stuff is "not as crisp as it was last year."
"He'll get that back," Scioscia said. "It's just right now, where we are, we don't have the time to use that one spot to get him where he needs to be."
With Mills back in the Minors, Hisanori Takahashi is the Angels' only lefty reliever until Scott Downs, out with a bruised right ankle, makes his way back.
Downs takes first step in return to Halos
NEW YORK -- Angels lefty Scott Downs made progress with his sore right ankle on Saturday, doing some agility drills and throwing roughly 10 pitches in the bullpen just to get a feel for how it would respond off a mound.
The 36-year-old Downs, who dodged a stint on the disabled list when an MRI exam revealed no structural or ligament damage, may be back by early next week.
"We're looking good," Downs said. "We're gaining progress. I don't think there's a timetable, but every day it's getting better, so hopefully that just makes it a day sooner."
Downs, who spent two stints on the DL last year, suffered the injury while covering first base and getting spiked by Twins center fielder Denard Span on Thursday. Without him, an Angels bullpen that already had some depth issues is even thinner, as more is being asked of the 39-year-old arms of LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen.
Downs knows this -- which is why he has to fight himself not to push his rehab too hard.
"As just an athlete in general, your instincts start to take over and your adrenaline starts to kick in," Downs said. "We're not here to sit and watch; we're here to pitch. We're here to play and do what we can to stay on the field."
Right-hander Bobby Cassevah, who began the year on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, has pitched well during a rehab assignment in Class A Advanced Inland Empire, hurling three scoreless one-inning outings while giving up one hit and two walks.
Cassevah is eligible to be activated, but manager Mike Scioscia said he's still "trying to work his way into his stuff" and needs more time.
"I think he needs a little bit more work," Scioscia said. "I don't think it's a lot, but he needs a little bit more work."
Vernon Wells hit his 250th career home run in the fifth inning of Saturday's 7-1 win. With that, the Angels joined the Yankees as the only team with four players with at least 250 career home runs. Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols are the others on the Angels, and Yankees Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones have done it.
Pujols (2-for-5 with a double and an RBI on Saturday) is now homerless in his first eight games, which ties the longest streak to start a season in his career (also done in 2008). His batting average is .250.
With a victory on Sunday, the Angels would win their first regular-season series at Yankee Stadium since 2007. Friday's win was their fifth in the last 16 games in the Bronx.
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.