Notes: Morales rooting for Team Cuba

Notes: Morales rooting for Team Cuba

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Kendry Morales can't help but feel a little pride for the Cuban baseball team.

His native country has advanced to the final game of the inaugural World Baseball Classic and will face Japan on Monday in San Diego's PETCO Park.

After defecting from Cuba in 2004, Morales is now a citizen of the Dominican Republic, but he knows the Cuban players well and counts them as his friends. The 22-year-old would certainly be member of the finalist squad, having played for Cuban national teams on numerous occasions.

In 2003, Morales hit a grand slam as Cuba upended Taiwan to win the gold medal in the Baseball World Cup tournament. A year earlier, Morales was the first teenager to star for Cuba since Omar Linares in the 1980s.

Morales played Saturday in Tucson, Ariz., but he was able to see a few innings of Cuba's 3-1 win over the Dominican Republic on television.

"I'd like to be there, but I'm here," Morales said through an interpreter. "The country is very happy. It's Cuba's team."

Morales said he is not surprised that Cuba advanced to the final, given his former country's extensive experience in international competition. He also said he would celebrate if Cuba prevails on Monday.

"When you win in Cuba, you feel that everyone, the whole country, how much they support you and what you did," Morales said. "They're not professionals, you have to remember. It's amateur baseball. We all feel very proud."

Decisions: The last roster spot among position players is likely to come down to Tim Salmon and Robb Quinlan -- with Morales holding an outside shot.

Both Salmon and Morales have had solid springs at the plate. Salmon is hitting .313 with two doubles in 11 games and has a .378 on-base percentage. Morales is hitting .350 with four doubles, a triple, a homer and nine RBIs in 15 games while posting a .381 on-base percentage. Morales is also improving at first base

Quinlan is hitting just .258 in 13 games but can play as many as four different positions -- both corner infield spots and both corners in the outfield.

Salmon has the edge as long as his surgically repaired left shoulder and left knee continue to hold up, but the decision will hinge mostly on who is swinging the bat well and projects into a Major League role.

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"The first thing we will look at is offensive production and who is the best candidate to fit into our lineup," manager Mike Scioscia said. "But if that is not available, and the guys that need to jump up don't materialize, we will look at versatility."

Getting close: Bartolo Colon tossed six scoreless innings in the Dominican Republic's semifinal loss to Cuba in the Classic.

Colon reached the 70-pitch plateau and is scheduled to make his first Cactus League start on Friday against the Royals. The club had concerns about their ace pitcher when the tournament began due to his shoulder, but is confident now he'll be ready to open the season.

"For him to get to 100 pitches is not a big stretch," Scioscia said.

Colon, who will return to Angels camp on Tuesday, developed a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand, but it is not expected to pose an issue.

Kelvim Escobar, whose Venezuelan team was eliminated by the Dominican Republic in the second round, pitched in a Minor League game on Saturday and will make his first official spring start on Thursday against the A's.

Hidden talents: Ervin Santana allowed four runs on 10 hits in five innings to pick up the win against the Rockies on Saturday, but he showed some offensive skills by knocking in a pair of runs with a single and scoring a run.

"He looked great," Scioscia said. "He put the ball in play and looked comfortable at the plate."

Weather report: After the region experienced 142 straight days without rain, Sunday's game against the A's was the Angels second spring rainouts in the last eight days. The Angels game at the Maryvale Sports Complex against the Brewers on March 11 was also called for rain.

Sent down: Infielder Howie Kendrick was reassigned to Minor League camp Sunday along with infielder Erick Aybar, left-handed pitchers Nathan Bland and Jonathon Rouwenhorst, right-hander Dustin Moseley, outfielder Tommy Murphy and catcher Ryan Budde. The Angels now have 37 players in Major League camp.

Tournament timing: Scioscia floated a couple of ideas about the scheduling of the Classic. One is to put it at the end of Spring Training instead of the middle, and another would be adding three in-season breaks -- e.g. May, June and July -- to compensate for the extra workload.

On deck: The Angels have a break in the schedule on Monday, but John Lackey is scheduled to pitch in a Minor League game. Right-hander Jeff Weaver is set to face Texas right-hander John Wasdin on Tuesday at 12:05 p.m. PT when the Angels face the Rangers in Surprise, Ariz.

Mike Scarr is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.