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Morales could be future Angels starter

Morales could be future Angels starter

DETROIT -- When the Angels sent Casey Kotchman, under their contractual control for at least three more seasons, to Atlanta for Mark Teixeira, who could depart as a free agent in three months, Kendry Morales became a peripheral story.

Should the Angels get out-bid for Teixeira's coveted services this winter, Morales, a star of the Cuban national team before signing with the Angels, could be the answer at first base. That was the suggestion of owner Arte Moreno and manager Mike Scioscia, two reliable sources.

In Salt Lake at the time with the Triple-A Bees of the Pacific Coast League, Morales got the word of Moreno's faith in his talent from teammates Sean Rodriguez and Freddy Sandoval. Morales' response was characteristically low-key.

"We were just messing around with him," Rodriguez said, grinning. "He didn't hear when Arte said that."

Rodriguez, the Angels' second baseman with Howie Kendrick trying to get over a hamstring issue, was standing alongside Morales in the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park before Thursday's series finale against the Tigers.

Through Rodriguez's translation, Morales said he'd continue to "wait for the opportunity to play every day and see what happens. You can't know what's going to happen. You just have to take care of your own business."

A switch-hitter, like Teixeira, with power, Morales is hitting .250 in 12 at-bats with the Angels this season after showing promise in 119 at-bats last year, batting .294 with a .479 slugging percentage.

At 25, a veteran of extensive international experience with Team Cuba, Morales batted .341 with 15 homers and 64 RBIs in 78 games at Salt Lake. Scioscia has raved about his progress defensively at first, and Morales said he's "as comfortable in the outfield as at first," having played right for Cuba.

"You see a lot of guys who played international ball in Cuba here," Morales said. "It's probably about the same caliber of baseball."

Teixeira, batting .376 in an Angels uniform with nine homers and 28 RBIs in 32 games, was back at first base on Thursday after Morales handled the job on Wednesday night.

"You've got to look at it as a good trade," Morales said of the swap with the Braves that also sent pitcher Steve Marek to Atlanta. "He's a first baseman with a lot of experience, a mature player playing at his potential. Not that Kotch won't be [a quality player]. But you can't look at it as a bad trade."

Morales is diplomatic about the possibility of moving in full-time next season, making no bold proclamations about his readiness.

"I haven't had the opportunity to play every day in the big leagues," he said, "so I can't really give you a response."

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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