Spring Training literally just started and things are already getting off on the wrong foot both literally and figuratively. Every Angel fan's worst nightmare came one step closer to reality when Kendry Morales publicly questioned his own ability to be ready for Opening Day. Is this really just the team and their star being overly cautious or is this the next chapter in Kendry's Cuban Ankle Crisis?
Almost a year after his embarrassing injury and Morales still isn't right? Say it ain't so!
It is amazing how much two little syllables can change your mood and perspective. I was having a great day yesterday and planning on writing a benign little piece about which Angels are on the roster bubble to start training camp, but then I saw Kendry's response to the seemingly innocent question of whether or not he thinks he'll be ready for Opening Day, something we all had taken for granted. That response? "No se." For those who don't habla the Espanol, that means "I don't know."
The world is spinning.
We have just lost cabin pressure.
Yup, that's right. The man that many have hoped would put this wayward franchise on his shoulders and carry them back to contention isn't so sure that he is healthy enough to play yet, which certainly means he is far from certain that he can play at MVP-caliber level. Well, that's just great. I don't think anybody really expected for Morales to show up in camp doing cartwheels and backflips on his broken leg, but not ready for the start of the season? The thought never really entered my mind, until now and now it occupies the very forefront of mind and probably isn't going to be moving to the back of the bus anytime soon.
I want to believe that Morales didn't really mean to cast a prediction of doom and gloom with his "no se" response or that we somehow lost something in translation, as often happens with interviews conducted in foreign languages (though I can't imagine how "no se" was mistranslated), but I now have no choice but to assume that Morales was actually not telling us something much more important, if only because I am generally pessimistic and paranoid by nature. He says he can swing with no pain and that he is feeling good, but he still isn't allowed to run at more than half speed? Something doesn't quite add up there.
I'm not a doctor, but I have had my fair share of ankle and leg injuries to recover from during my high school days (On my high school basketball team, I was known as "The Albatross", I could jump pretty well, but landings? Yeah, not so much.) and when you or your doctors don't want you running or, more likely, running and cutting, it probably means that there is still a lot of weakness remaining in the area of the initial injury. That doesn't mean that K-Mo is going to take a false step and splinter his femur again, but rather that he hasn't rebuilt the muscles in his lower leg. No leg muscles means no Kendry playing the field since he would then run the risk of taking a misstep and rolling his ankle or twisting his knee, since there are no muscles to prevent that, and doing severe damage to his ligaments and tendons. Moving him to DH won't help much either because with no strength and support in one of his legs, Morales is going to have a hard time generating power. Scioscia might as well just have Izturis take over at DH and cleanup if that is going to be the case (crap, I think I just gave him an idea).
And when Morales says he may not be ready for Opening Day, can we really assume that he'll be ready at all? I've already seen speculation that the Angels might have to make due without him until the end of April, but that may not even be a guarantee, especially if the issue that is hindering him right now is a potential problem in the way his leg healed. And when I say "ready," I mean ready to perform at a high level, not ready to be present but be totally awful, kind of like Juan Rivera was the year after he broke his leg. Whatever the case, I just went from my usual stance of "Spring Training means nothing, I put almost no stock in anyone's performance," to "I'm going to set my DVR to record every single Angel pre-season game so that I can rewatch every Morales at-bat and break it down frame-by-frame." Ugh, I am getting an ulcer just thinking about it.
Then there is the added subplot wondering what the Angels are going to do if Morales isn't available to start the season. They already dealt away their main insurance policy when they sent Mike Napoli packing in the Vernon Wells trade (that deal just keeps looking better, doesn't it?), leaving them with just Brandon Wood as the only guy on the probable Opening Day roster that has any real experience playing first base. Is anyone else having post-traumatic stress flashbacks of Paul McAnulty at first base, or is it just me? OK, things may not be McAnulty-level bad this time out, but they aren't a whole lot better. The obvious replacement for Morales is rookie slugger Mark Trumbo, but he was also the obvious replacement went Morales originally got hurt, so confusion reigns once again.
What makes this so aggravating isn't just the multiple levels of confusion, but that this could all turn out to be much ado about nothing. For all we know, Kendry was just being humble and cautious, possibly at the behest of the team, in order to keep expectations low in case he does end up suffering a setback. But the problem is that we don't know and we aren't going to know for several weeks. And it is all because Kendry said "I don't know."
Do us all a favor, Kendry, next time someone asks you if you'll be ready for Opening Day, just say, "probably."