Kendrys Morales begins important week

Tempe, Ariz. — Kendrys Morales was scheduled to run on the infield dirt without touching any bases Monday, the first test in what is expected to be an important week for the Angels slugger who is recovering from a broken left ankle.

If Morales, who has missed the past year and a half, passes Monday’s test, he will start running the bases by the middle of the week. The next step after that would be sliding drills, which will probably be first performed on the outfield grass with Morales wearing only socks, no spikes.

If he experiences no setbacks, Morales, who in 2009 hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in, could start playing exhibition games by the middle of next week. The ultimate goal is to get Morales into the cleanup spot behind No. 3 hitter Albert Pujols.

“He has some important hurdles this week,” Manager Mike Scioscia said. “You have to be able to run at a certain level to play this game. You have to break out of the batter’s box and keep a degree of comfort in the ankle to where he can swing the bat. Those hurdles have not been crossed yet.”

But the fact that Morales, who did not progress past running straight-line sprints last spring, is even approaching these hurdles has given the Angels reason to believe he will return to the lineup this season, if not by opening day, shortly thereafter.

“We’re definitely excited about where he is with an understanding that the last 10% a player is trying to get is sometimes elusive,” Scioscia said. “We don’t anticipate that. Has our [confidence] soared because of where he is right now? I’ll say it has gradually increased from when we saw him taking ground balls and swinging the bat in January.”