Morales is left with ‘What if ?’

An­gel talks about fluke ac­ci­dent that ended his sea­son in May and says he’ll be back strong Morales in 2011.

Los Angeles Times - - Sports - Mike DiGio­vanna mike.digio­vanna@latimes.com

It was a fluke ac­ci­dent that ended his sea­son on May 29, pushed him onto sports’ most bizarre in­juries list and punc­tured the An­gels’ play­off hopes, but nearly four months later, Kendry Morales is able to see some hu­mor in it.

Morales was in An­gel Sta­dium on Tues­day and spoke to re­porters for the first time since he broke his lower left leg jump­ing on the plate af­ter his walk-off home run against the Seat­tle Mariners.

The first base­man, who hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 runs bat­ted in last sea­son and had 11 homers and 39 RBIs when he was in­jured, chuck­led when asked what he would do the next time he hits a walk-off homer.

“Clearly,” Morales said through a trans­la­tor, “I’m not very good at jump­ing.”

Ac­tu­ally, Morales is very good at jump­ing. It’s that land­ing part that needs some work.

“I don’t re­mem­ber much,” Morales said. “I re­mem­ber jump­ing. I re­mem­ber hit­ting the ground, and I re­mem­ber look­ing at my foot and think­ing it was bro­ken.”

Asked whether he has watched re­plays, Morales laughs again.

“I’ve seen it,” he said. “We were caught up in the emo­tion of the game, the vic­tory. I think, ‘What would have hap­pened had I not jumped?’ But it was an ac­ci­dent. What are you go­ing to do? All I can do is move on.”

The An­gels did, go­ing 20-8 in the month af­ter the in­jury, with 10 of those wins com­ing against Na­tional League teams and seven against Seat­tle and Kansas City.

But they could not com­pen­sate for the loss of their mid­dle-of-the-or­der slug­ger for four months. The of­fense hit the skids in July, a month in which the An­gels were 9-17 and fell nine games be­hind Texas in the Amer­i­can League West.

“It’s ob­vi­ous we miss him,” right fielder Torii Hunter said. “Hav­ing him changes the way pitch­ers pitch cer­tain guys. Our con­fi­dence level goes up with him.”

Hunter’s walk to­tals jumped with­out Morales be­hind him in the lineup. The usu­ally ag­gres­sive Hunter has drawn a ca­reer-high 58 walks and “might have 20-25 more” if he was more pa­tient.

“If I could take six pitches, I’d prob­a­bly walk, but I can’t,” Hunter said. “I tried to force the is­sue. You could tell there are times when teams don’t want me to beat them.”

Hunter is hav­ing a de­cent sea­son, en­ter­ing Tues­day with a .287 av­er­age, 21 homers and 83 RBIs, but like many An­gels hit­ters, he knows he could have done more.

“I’m hu­man,” Hunter said. “I tried to put a lit­tle more on my­self, to hit for more power in the cleanup spot. I tried to do a lit­tle too much.”

Morales is off crutches, and he walked with­out a limp Tues­day as he can­vassed the club­house, shak­ing hands with team­mates.

He is “a lit­tle bit ahead of sched­ule” in his rehabilitation and ex­pects a full re­cov­ery for 2011. He is un­der­go­ing phys­i­cal ther­apy six days a week but is sev­eral weeks away from jog­ging.

“There is no rea­son to doubt [I won’t come back] at 100%,” Morales said. “The doc­tors said it all went well, and they see noth­ing but good things ahead.”

The An­gels be­lieve the re­turn of a healthy Morales and the ad­di­tion of at least one more pro­duc­tive bat will lead them back into play­off con­tention next sea­son.

“We talk about what our lineup will look like when Kendry gets back,” Man­ager Mike Scios­cia said. “That’s the biggest free-agent sign­ing you could make in an off-sea­son.”

Though Morales has been to the sta­dium only a few times since the in­jury, he watches games on tele­vi­sion and is in con­stant con­tact with team­mates.

“We joke around,” he said. “I’m bust­ing their chops like I would nor­mally, but just from far away.”

And, of course, team­mates have ribbed him about how he got in­jured, which helps Morales lighten up about it.

“It’s just how we, as team­mates, mess around,” Morales said. “They made light of the sit­u­a­tion, and it picked up from there.”

Gina Fer­azzi

JUST BE­FORE THE FALL: Kendry Morales heads home af­ter hit­ting a game-win­ning grand slam against Seat­tle on May 29. He broke an an­kle mo­ments later af­ter jump­ing on the plate.

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