Morales' slash line through the first 74 games -- .281/.325/.415 -- is fine. But it surely isn't indicative of a cleanup hitter, and it's a far cry from the man who finished an MVP-caliber 2009 season with a line of .306/.355/.569. When you consider Morales missed almost two full seasons with two left ankle surgeries -- and how important a strong base is for driving the ball -- a drop-off in power is to be expected.
Morales, while disappointed with his hitting so far, is hardly surprised.
"People are looking at the moment only," Morales said in Spanish, "but with the type of injury I had, it takes two years, minimum, to be 100 percent."
With an eighth-inning solo shot in Tuesday's 13-0 win over the Tigers, Morales has nine home runs all year. Before that, he had hit only one in his last 26 games and ranked 86th in the Majors -- behind guys such as Jason Kipnis, Brandon Phillips and Casey Kotchman -- in at-bats per home run. He's a switch-hitting power hitter, but most of the time he's resembled the switch-hitting Alberto Callaspo and Erick Aybar, spraying the ball and hitting against the shift.
"I never thought I'd hit the way I'm hitting this year," Morales said. "There are good days and bad days. But that's normal given all the time I missed. It had to be that way, because it's not easy. There's a lot of quality players out here, and they've stayed playing all those years that I've missed. I have to catch up."
As the season has progressed, Morales has sought out other ballplayers who have attempted to make similar comebacks from traumatic leg injuries, and they've all told him essentially the same thing: It'll take roughly two years to feel completely normal again, with the same strength and mobility.
Until then, at least, Morales is serviceable.
And he takes solace in the belief that he's trending upward.
"Every day, I'm feeling better," Morales said. "It's not the way I used to be, but every day, I'm getting a little better and progressing towards that. I think I've come a long way. Running, now, nothing bothers me. That's a big step. But there are still lots of adjustments that I need to make."