It’s been nearly 22 months since Kendrys Morales last stepped up to the plate for the Los Angeles Angels, 273 regular season games since the infamous moment that left Halo fans at a loss for words.
It was Saturday, May 29, 2010.
The Angels were hosting the Mariners in an afternoon pitcher’s duel behind starters Jered Weaver and Felix Hernandez.
After walking in the bottom of the first and lining a single to left center in the third, Morales struck out swinging in both the sixth and eighth innings with the game tied 1-1. But all that changed in the bottom of the tenth.
Macier Izturis doubled to deep right center following a fly out by Erick Aybar to start off the inning. Bobby Abreu was intentionally walked before Reggie Willits’ fielder’s choice single to second was mishandled by Chone Figgins, resulting in an error.
With one out and the bases loaded, Morales walked up to the plate.
The next few moments resulted in a wide range of emotions for Angels fans.
After cranking a first pitch fast ball over the left center field wall for a walk-off grand slam, Morales rounded the bases in celebration: approaching home plate and jumping into a joyous crowd of teammates.
But he didn’t get back up. Not on his own, at least.
Morales was helped to his feet by the Angels training staff only to be carted off the field and into the clubhouse. He has yet to play another game at Angel Stadium.
That may soon change.
Today, Morales joined the Angels line up for a Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals at Tempe Diablo Stadium in AZ. After more than a season and a half, two ankle surgeries, and persistent calf tightness, Morales was back in Halo Red: plugged into the DH role and batting sixth behind Vernon Wells.
His return started out with a bang as Morales knocked a one out, 1-1 pitch through the hole on the right side for a single. The next batter up was Abreu who laced a double to left field. In his first real test on the base path, Morales went first-to-third, rounding second base sharply and sliding in before the throw. He would later be driven in on Chris Iannetta’s two-out, two-RBI double to left field.
It was only the second inning, but Morales had already proven that he could hit, go first-to-third, and slide without any pain or discomfort.
Following a pop out to first in the third, Morales laced a two-strike single up the middle in the bottom of the fifth before being thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Abreu.
That was the end of the day for Morales. The slugger had gone 2 for 3 with two singles and a run scored in his long-awaited return to Major League play (albeit Spring Training).
The Angels went on to beat the Royals 7-4, and Halo Honks everywhere smiled.
But will Morales continue to play without pain, or will he be bothered by the same nagging issues in his ankle that he's been dealing with for the past year and a half? Will he ever be able to reach the kinds of numbers that he did in 2009 when the slugger hit .306/.355/.924 with 34 HR and 108 RBI, or have we seen the best of him?
It’s too soon to answer these types of questions, too soon to know.
All I know for certain is that today is a great day for Angels Baseball and a great day for us fans!
Welcome back, Kendrys!