New faces unveiled in Cactus League opener

New faces unveiled in Cactus League opener

New faces unveiled in Cactus League opener
TEMPE, Ariz. -- As Confucius once said, the long road back from a disappointing baseball season begins with the smallest step. The Angels and Dodgers take that step together Saturday in their Cactus League opener.

Right-hander Trevor Bell opposes Dodgers righty Hiroki Kuroda at 12:05 p.m. PT in Tempe Diablo Stadium in the first portion of an opening weekend home-and-home series between the Los Angeles teams. "Battle: Los Angeles" continues with Sunday's 12:05 p.m. PT tilt at the Dodgers' Camelback Ranch.

The two Southern California clubs, both 80-82 in 2010, are coming off their first mutual losing seasons since 1999, when the Angels went 70-92 and the Dodgers won 77 contests.

Inclement weather is in the weekend forecast, but the rains are not expected to move in until late Saturday, leaving the Angels encouraged that their first of 33 exhibitions will go on as scheduled.

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With manager Mike Scioscia intent on giving game time to everyone in the crowded Angels clubhouse, including 25 non-roster players, plenty of new faces will get unveiled to fans in the coming days.

Of greatest interest among the newcomers is Vernon Wells, the former Toronto center fielder who takes over in left field. A familiar face popping up in a new place will be Torii Hunter, the Angels' center fielder since 2008 who is moving to right to make room for Peter Bourjos.

Others getting preseason introductions include left-handers Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs, while top outfield prospect Mike Trout (who hit .571 in limited Cactus League play as an 18-year-old last spring) will certainly be one of the closest-watched players in Arizona.

One familiar face that won't be seen in action for quite a while is Kendry Morales, the switch-hitting powerful first baseman whose return from a freak fracture to his lower left leg appears to be on schedule but is not yet far enough along.

"He's strong defensively and has no issues batting. But he's still working on his running," said Scioscia, who remains optimistic that Morales will be in his lineup March 31 in Kansas City. "We're a long way from Opening Day. Kendry is already swinging the bat, so he won't need 80 at-bats to get ready."

But Morales will need at least 40, Scioscia reasoned, putting a reasonable deadline on when he would have to surface in exhibition play to become Opening Day-probable. Figuring three at-bats per game, a typical Cactus League shift for veteran players, the Angels will want to get Morales into their lineup by mid-March.

"It's tough to go into a season with 10 at-bats. So the offensive clock starts ticking at some point," Scioscia said. "He's doing it all defensively and in fundamentals. I think he's made great strides in two weeks."

Morales' running has been limited to a treadmill, where he has reached "60 to 70 percent speed for his body weight."

"He's doing well on his running program on the treadmill. When he gets that up to 100 percent, he'll be on the field," Scioscia said. "He has to show us velocity, being able to bust out of the batter's box. He just has to play baseball."

Precisely what the Boys of Summer will get down to in the dusk of winter on Saturday.

Tom Singer is a national reporter for Follow @Tom_Singer on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.