Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the most important week of Kendrys Morales' career and possibly even the Angels 2012 season. Hold on, let me run the hyperbole checker on that last statement.
Survey says.... 10% chance of hyperbole. Not bad.
Now, if I'm reading these results right, the hyperbole only applies to the Angels season, but the part about Morales, 100% accurate, so let's focus on that part first.
As you might know, this is the week that Kendrys Morales' recovery enters its final steps. For the first time since he snapped his ankle, Kendrys Morales is running the bases. That means him actually going full speed, planting on the bag, turning and pushing off with his surgically repaired ankle. Just like a real ballgame.
If that goes well for the next few days, he will play in a real ballgame. That's right, Kendrys Morales playing in real ballgames could be just one week away. Personally, I thought we would never see that day.
Yet here we are now, mere days away from seeing the player who once looked like he was going to be the Angels' franchise player returning to the field to try and pick up where he left off. But make no mistake, this coming week of tests is a lot more than a mere formality. As last training camp taught us, nothing is ever as simple as it seems when it comes to Morales' recovery. All it takes is for Kendrys to plant his foot on first base, have it roll on him and the comeback is over. It doesn't even necessarily have to be a new injury to his previously broken bone, it could be something as common as a sprain. The kind of trauma Kendrys suffered can leave his ankle weaker and more susceptible to injury no matter how many plates, screws and bionic body parts his doctors stuck in there.
Even the slightest of setbacks this week could send Morales back weeks or even months in time on his recovery program like he had found Doc Brown's Delorean. And I'm not just talking about his running program, I'm talking about the very scare proposition of Morales reverting back to the days of "will he ever be healthy ever again." (Though I find the prospect of more endless reports about him running on a magical weightless treadmill equally as frightening.) If something as basic as rounding first base can cause him to hurt himself again, to whatever degree, the whispers are going to start again. Whispers are scary. Whispers can affect the future of the franchise. Whispers can mean the end of Kendrys' career.
But fret not, we aren't there. If reports are to be believed, and there really isn't any reason they shouldn't be, Kendrys is passing every test with flying colors. No pain, no soreness, no swelling. If it stays that way for the next week, he's good. The big problems are behind him, or at least as behind him as an ankle held together by metal plates and screws can be. He'll be moving on to worrying about whether or not he can produce at a high level again, but that's a good kind of problem for him to have right now.
And it is a good kind of problem for the Angels to have too. This is where that aforementioned 10% chance of hyperbole kicks in. You see, having a healthy Kendrys Morales who can at least threaten to be close to as productive as he was before the injury clears up a lot of the uncertainty in the Angel lineup.
Without Morales, who hits behind Pujols? Will it be Trumbo's immense power? Abreu because he is the only lefty? Or maybe the reliable but diminishing skills of Hunter? With Morales, the answer is simple. Kendrys gets the call, Scioscia has already said as much. Even at reduced capacity, Morales' switch-hitting power bat is the ideal protection against the rest of the American League pulling out the 2004 Barry Bonds plan and just constantly pitching around Albert. Scioscia, if Morales is unavailable, can try and mix and match to get Pujols that protection, but it will be a persistent and complex issue for him without Kendrys.
The same goes for the DH spot. No Morales means Scioscia having to juggle Abreu and Trumbo at DH and possibly even having to stave off calls to call up Mike Trout to enter that mix. It isn't the worst problem in the world, but it just makes life simpler.
The crazy part about it all is that all of these answers will be known before the weekend. We, and I do mean we the fans, will get to see with our own eyes for the first time in almost two years what Morales looks like running and swinging. Will he favor the ankle? Will he move like nothing eve happened? Will his swing be the same as before his injury?
For Kendrys, it will be the longest week of his life, but at the end of that week he won't just be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, assuming everything goes off without a hitch, he'll be emerging from that dark tunnel, which a few weeks ago would have been a crazy idea unto itself.
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