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Angels Morning Briefing: Several regulars return; Kendrys Morales eases way into running drills

March 15, 2011 | 10:50 am

Angels Right fielder Torii Hunter (jammed right thumb), center fielder Peter Bourjos (sore right hip) and third baseman Maicer Izturis (general tightness) are all back in the lineup Tuesday for the Angels' Cactus League game against the San Diego Padres in Peoria, Ariz.

Right-hander Joel Pineiro is scheduled to throw five innings or about 75 pitches, whichever comes first, and he will oppose San Diego left-hander Wade LeBlanc.

Closer Fernando Rodney, who was out all weekend because of flu-like symptoms, was originally scheduled to pitch Tuesday, but the Angels pushed him back to give him more time to recover. Rodney returned to camp and played catch.

Infielder Alberto Callaspo, limited by a shoulder injury to a designated-hitter role all spring, is close to returning to the field, but a minor calf injury has set him back a few more days.

With Monday's off day behind them and the March 31 season opener against Kansas City 16 days away, it's that time of spring when teams get a little more serious about results and performance.

"It's time to kick it in gear," Hunter said. "The most important thing is to start getting your timing down. Early in spring, you're either out in front of pitches or letting the ball get too deep. We're trying to get locked in."

This is also a critical week for first baseman Kendrys Morales, not so much to get his timing at the plate but to get his legs underneath him.

Morales, who is recovering from a broken lower-left leg, was supposed to begin running curves on Tuesday, but the Angels limited him to running to first base, at less than 100%, the first time Morales has run on the infield dirt this spring.

For Morales to be ready for the season opener, Manager Mike Scioscia said he would have to begin playing exhibition games by this weekend. But Morales, who has looked strong during batting practice, still has to go through a base-running progression before he is cleared to play.

It appears more and more likely Morales won't be ready for the opener, and if he is, he will most likely be relegated to designated hitter. That would open up first base for rookie Mark Trumbo, who has been one of the team's top hitters this spring.

"We're going to know in a couple of days whether [Kendrys] is game ready," Scioscia said. "Everything is contingent on how he comes out of these workouts. Hopefully, he'll be comfortable enough to get some at-bats in a game soon.

"But he'll be ready when he's ready. We can't rush this. We're seeing good signs but not enough to make a determination today."

Today's Angels lineup vs. Padres

3B  Maicer Izturis

DH  Bobby Abreu

RF  Torii Hunter

LF  Vernon Wells

2B  Howie Kendrick

SS  Erick Aybar

1B  Mark Trumbo

C   Bobby Wilson

CF  Peter Bourjos

P   Joel Pineiro


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-- Mike DiGiovanna in Tempe, Ariz.

Photo: Torii Hunter (left), Peter Bourjos (center), and Maicer Izturis. Credit: Charlie Riedel / AP