The Angels traded away first baseman Casey Kotchman to get first baseman Mark Teixeira, who left as a free agent after only two months. Now they are hoping Kendry Morales can keep that from being remembered as a blunder.
The switch-hitting Cuban has been all but handed the first base job in Teixeira's wake. The Angels' only other options are utility man Robb Quinlan and outfielder Juan Rivera, who has almost no experience at first base.
"No, I don't feel like it's mine right now," Morales said through a translator. "I'm one of the candidates. I don't ever want to be thinking that it's a given. I know that there are other people who can play first base, so I don't want to get complacent and think it's my job.
"At this point, no, I don't think it's my job. I have to earn it."
More accurately, he will have to prove he is not ready for it. The Angels are convinced he is after watching him hit .329 in parts of four minor league seasons and getting a taste of the majors each of the last three.
"Kendry is a guy we hope hits the ground running and wins the job and is a significant contributor on the offensive side," manager Mike Scioscia said. "More than him worrying about, 'What's an 0-for-4, 0-for-8, 0-for-12 going to mean for my playing time?' we want him to get into his game. Let his talent surface as quickly as it can."
With Teixeira's free agency the talk of the winter, Morales headed to the Dominican Republic to prepare himself for the possibilities ahead. He made another statement about his big-league readiness by hitting .387 (72-for-186) with 15 home runs and 45 RBI in 48 games.
"I went over there to work as hard as possible so if Mark Teixeira wasn't signed I would be ready for the opportunity, the next challenge," Morales said.
"I feel the time I spent in winter ball and the times I spent in the big leagues, going up and down, has prepared me enough that being a productive, everyday player is within reach if I work hard."
Former Angels Mark Langston and Jim Abbott were in camp as guest instructors, and fellow alums Tim Salmon, Bobby Grich and Chuck Finley are expected later this spring. It's a tradition that manager Mike Scioscia brought over from his days with the Dodgers. "I think you bring forward the tradition of an organization as much as you can," Scioscia said. "I grew up with it when I played, having guys like Roy Campanella and Johnny Roseboro and Sandy Koufax and Johnny Podres, Carl Erskine. These guys were fixtures at Dodgertown. As a player, it's a great support group for you."
Kelvim Escobar has been set back in his recovery from shoulder surgery -- but not because of his arm. Escobar suffered a strained calf muscle during workouts last weekend and had to limit his activity for the week. He has continued his long-toss throwing program and is optimistic about throwing off a mound again sometime in the next week.
Mike Napoli has begun his throwing program after a slow recovery from October surgery on his right shoulder. Napoli has continued to hit and do all fielding drills during workouts, but without throwing. It is possible he could open the season on a minor league injury-rehabilitation assignment.
Bobby Abreu started each of the Angels' first three Cactus League games in left field. After spending his first 11 seasons as a big-league regular playing right field, Abreu is making the transition to left with the Angels. He has found the Arizona sun his biggest problem. Abreu struggled with flyballs in the first two games, then lost one in the sun for a triple Friday against the Rockies.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "It sounds contradictory. But Francisco Rodriguez isn't here, and right now we have - even without Francisco - more depth and more versatility than we have had in quite some time." -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia on the team's bullpen in the wake of losing record-setting closer Francisco Rodriguez to free agency.