Morales making Halos forget Teixeira

Morales making Halos forget Teixeira

ANAHEIM -- The Yankees' Mark Teixeira might be the frontrunner in the American League's Most Valuable Player derby, but you won't hear any weeping from his former fans in Southern California.

They're doing just fine with Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera and Brian Fuentes.

To say nothing of Kendry Morales, Teixeira's heir at first base.

Because they were outbid for Teixeira, who took the Yankees' eight-year, $180-million deal over the Angels' eight-year, $160-million proposal, the Angels were able to acquire Abreu, Rivera and Fuentes at a total cost of $17.05 million for 2009 -- $2.95 million less than Teixeira would have drawn.

Even when you add in the $600,000 going to Morales, the Cuban defector whose signing was heartily endorsed by Angels scouting director Eddie Bane along with the late Preston Gomez, you still come up $2.35 million shy of Teixeira's tab.

For this $17.65 million investment, the Angels through Monday had received 344 hits, 52 homers and 214 RBIs, along with 32 saves.

While Teixeira has adapted beautifully to his new surroundings, helping drive the Yankees to the top of the AL East, the Angels have been thrilled with the production of Abreu, Rivera, Morales and Fuentes.

While Teixeira is tied with the Rays' Carlos Pena for the AL home run lead with 29, Morales isn't far behind with 25 after lashing a pair of bombs on Monday night. Teixeira has 84 RBIs, Morales 75, and Morales (.301) is hitting for a higher average than Teixeira (.286).

Teixeira is a Gold Glove first baseman, but Morales is gaining confidence and improving by leaps and bounds.

"Kendry has worked hard and made big strides in all areas of his game," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "This is the potential he's always had. We all saw it. I can't say we're surprised he's performed well and been a positive contributor.

"When he came in the organization, he was very raw. He played a little outfield in Cuba, a little third base. Everybody thought his skill set would play at first base or the outfield.

"By Tex not signing, we had to go a different route with Kendry at first base. He was going to get an opportunity to play in the outfield [if Teixeira had signed] -- just not at first base."

Morales will take his swings in Wednesday's series finale against right-hander Jeff Niemann, who faces Trevor Bell in Bell's Major League debut.

Bell, 22, is hoping to make an impression as the Angels try to fill the void left by Joe Saunders with his trip to the disabled list with shoulder discomfort.

"It's not going to be just one and done," Scioscia said of Bell, who is expected to get at least one more start before Saunders returns. "Where you don't have a track record, you have to settle in and make pitches and not try to out-think yourself.

"A lot of things can happen. A lot of players bring their game on the field and have success."

Pitching matchup
LAA: RHP Trevor Bell (0-0, -.-- ERA)
Bell, a 22-year-old right-hander born in North Hollywood, Calif., is expected to get his big shot in his Major League debut. Bell has raised his stock immensely with his best professional season after spending his first four years climbing no higher than Class A. He has improved the command of his fastball, along with his offspeed stuff. Bell was lifted after two innings in his start on Saturday for Triple-A Salt Lake against Memphis, having allowed two hits but no runs. He's 3-4 with a 3.15 ERA in 11 starts in the Pacific Coast League after going 4-3 with a 2.23 ERA to start the season at Double-A Arkansas. Bell was a 2005 compensation pick in the First-Year Player Draft, No. 37 overall, out of Crescenta Valley High School in Southern California.

TB: RHP Jeff Niemann (10-5, 3.73 ERA)
Niemann coasted through his first six innings on Friday against the Mariners, allowing just two hits and one run. At one point, he retired 17 of 18 batters. But he lost his rhythm in the seventh, and it ended up costing him (four earned runs) and his team (an 11th-inning, 7-6 loss). "He got a little quick there," manager Joe Maddon said of Niemann's fateful seventh. Despite the no-decision, Niemann is 8-2 with a 3.13 ERA in his 14 starts since May 13. He has just one appearance against the Angels, on June 10, when he went 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four earned runs in a 9-4 Rays win.

Bell, the 13th Angels starting pitcher this season, is 19-14 with a 3.90 ERA in 80 career Minor League appearances. He's 7-7 with a 2.70 ERA in 22 starts this season, 11 apiece at Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Salt Lake. ... Given his unconditional release on Tuesday to make room for Bell, veteran reliever Justin Speier had an 8.18 ERA in 14 games starting on July 1 after a 1.04 ERA in 8 2/3 innings in June. Speier stranded 12 of 14 inherited runners and held right-handers to a .229 batting average. ... The emergence of Jason Bulger and Kevin Jepsen as right-handed power relievers made Speier expendable, along with the availability of right-handers Matt Palmer and Shane Loux, also part-time starters. ... Vladimir Guerrero extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a sixth-inning single on Tuesday night against David Price.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
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Up next
• Thursday: Off-day
• Friday: Angels (Jered Weaver, 12-3, 3.73) at Orioles (Chris Tillman, 0-0, 5.19), 4:05 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Angels (John Lackey, 7-5, 3.88) at Orioles (Brian Matusz, 1-1, 7.04), 4:05 p.m. PT

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