Notes: Morales in for ailing Kotchman
Angels not saying what's wrong with regular first baseman
ANAHEIM -- The onus was on Kendry Morales, with 19 games worth of experience for the Angels at first base this year, to take care of business on Sunday in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, his team needing to beat the Red Sox to keep its season alive.Morales was pressed into service at first when Casey Kotchman was unable to make it to Angel Stadium with a non-baseball-related medical condition. Club officials are unable to disclose the specific nature of such ailments. Morales appeared in Game 2 in Boston as the designated hitter, and he singled during a three-run second inning that had the Angels in front. But the Red Sox tied it in the fifth and won it in the bottom of the ninth on Manny Ramirez's three-run homer to move one win away from the AL Championship Series. Morales, 1-for-5 in the series, hit .294 this year with four homers and 15 RBIs in 119 at-bats, slugging .479. He was errorless in 128 chances at first, showing a brand of improvement that has impressed manager Mike Scioscia. "Kendry is playing at a very high level defensively," Scioscia said. "He's going to handle that position fine. "On the right side of the infield, there are a lot of reads you have to make. There are some things Casey brings there in terms of range and playing through the year with [second baseman] Howie [Kendrick]. It's something Kendry and Howie will have to be on the same page with." Scioscia said there would be no need to shade Kendrick a step or two toward first, emphasizing how far Morales has come with the glove. "From where he was three years ago to where he is now, it's leaps and bounds," Scioscia said. Misfortune continues: Leaps and bounds, sure hands and finely tuned instincts have made a Gold Glove candidate of Kotchman, whose breakout season has been interrupted on several occasions by injuries and now illness. He sustained a concussion on a pickoff throw at Dodger Stadium by catcher Russell Martin on June 16, taking three stitches behind his right ear, and injured his left middle finger and thumb on Aug. 22 trying to check his swing against the Yankees' Mariano Rivera. Trainer Rick Smith drilled a small hole in his thumbnail to relieve the pressure.
"A season of picking up the pieces," Kotchman said with a shrug when he returned a week later.
Hitting .300 when he was hit by the Rivera pitch, he finished at .296 with 11 homers and 68 RBIs. When Martin's throw crashed against his helmet, the 23-year-old Floridian was batting .333 and was among the AL leaders in slugging (.556) and on-base percentage (.411).Morales was placed in the No. 5 spot in the order on Sunday, between Garret Anderson and Maicer Izturis. Schilling probably won't miss Kotchman, who is 3-for-10 against the veteran right-hander, a pitcher Morales has not faced. Guerrero recovered: After taking treatments and being tested, Vladimir Guerrero was declared fit to return to right field and hit third against Schilling. Guerrero was hit by a Manny Delcarmen fastball in the back of the left shoulder in the seventh inning of Game 2. A man with an extremely high pain threshold -- he missed only two games after getting drilled in the hand by a 96 mph Josh Beckett pitch in April -- Guerrero left Friday night's game in the eighth inning, and afterward he expressed some concern over the discomfort. "He feels fine," Scioscia said. "He's a little stiff, but it will loosen up once he gets out there and takes some batting practice." Guerrero played in the field on Friday night for the first time since Sept. 4, when he sustained an inflamed right triceps throwing the ball. He spent the balance of the season in the DH role. The Angels could use a breakout game from their main power outlet, much like the Red Sox have drawn from Vlad's pal, David Ortiz, and Ramirez. Guerrero, 2-for-7 in the series, is 11-for-57 (.193) in his postseason career with one homer -- a grand slam against the Red Sox in Game 3 of the 2004 ALDS in Boston. Since that blow, all nine of his postseason hits have been singles. The homer is his lone extra-base hit. Scioscia saw he saw nothing to indicate that Delcarmen was throwing intentionally at Guerrero.
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"Vlad's been pitched inside his whole career," Scioscia said. "The scouting report says you've got to get in on him, pitch him inside. It doesn't bother him -- except what happened with Seattle was obviously crossing the line."Mariners right-hander Jorge Campillo drew a suspension after twice coming inside on Guerrero in late September. Walking Manny 'extreme' measure: The question arose in the wake of Ramirez's three-run blast on Friday night off Francisco Rodriguez. The Angels had just walked Ortiz intentionally, putting runners on first and second with two outs, with Mike Lowell -- the leading Red Sox RBI man this year with 120 -- on deck. "Walk two guys to get to Lowell -- that's an extreme option," Scioscia said. "Especially with a guy [K-Rod] who needs to turn it loose. Sometimes you're going to have to play hardball." Up next: If there's a Game 4 on Monday night, the Angels are expected to send John Lackey (0-1, 6.00) against Beckett (1-0, 0.00) at 6:37 p.m. PT.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.