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Angels' Kendrys Morales making progress in comeback

Morales_240 Kendrys Morales is progressing in his rehab and could be in the lineup within the next week.

The slugging first baseman, whose 2010 season ended in May when he broke his left ankle, has been putting on impressive displays in batting practice this spring, and Wednesday he began running normally again. That marks a big step forward for Morales, who had previously been limited to treadmill workouts during which he wore a special harness that reduced the body weight his injured ankle had to support.

"Kendrys had a great workout," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He ran outside, ran great. "

As Morales' ankle has healed he's become more involved in defense drills. He participated fully in Thursday morning's workout and Scioscia hopes to continue that schedule.

"You want him to just get the functionality of reading balls off the bat on the defensive end and  getting into the right-side defense aspect, which he’s been practicing," Scioscia said. "Breaking for a ball in the hole, getting back to first, all the little things that come into playing that position he’s got to get reacquainted with."

Even if Morales' comeback continues apace, Scioscia said the team is unsure whether Morales could play first base every day from the start of the season or whether he'll have to spend some time as the designated hitter. That will weigh heavily in how the team sets its opening day roster.

Morales is an important part of the Angels' offense. In his first full big-league season, in 2009, he hit .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs, finishing fifth in voting for the American League's MVP award.

Other notes from Thursday morning:

-- Right-hander Loek Van Mil, at 7-foot-1 the tallest man in professional baseball history, is scheduled to pitch in today's split-squad exhibition with the Kansas City Royals in Tempe. Van Mil, who came to the Angels in the Brian Fuentes trade last August, has been a favorite of visiting reporters. A Japanese film crew even dedicated a segment to him. But he's been slowed in camp by shoulder inflammation and knee tendinitis.

"I'm just excited. It's my debut with my new team," Van Mil said.

-- Right-hander Trevor Bell, who is likely to start the season at Triple A Salt Lake, saw his latest session pitching batting practice pushed back, but he said his arm feels better. Bell, who reportedly is experiencing shoulder stiffness, hasn't appeared in a game since March 2.

-- Infielder Alexi Amarista was on crutches after sustaining a bone bruise in his heel.  Scioscia said he'll be out a couple of more days.

-- Kevin Baxter in Tempe, Ariz.

 Photo: Kendrys Morales. Credit: Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire.

 
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