ANAHEIM -- Kendrys Morales knows the realities of playing on a team that signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year contract. But at only 29 years old, and on track for free agency after the 2013 season, the last thing he wanted to be labeled as was a designated hitter.
And lately, while holding his own at first base and scorching at the plate, he's proving to be more than that.
"At first, I think everyone was looking at me as a designated hitter simply because of the issues that I had and because I went through a really rough injury," Morales said in Spanish, referring to the two ankle surgeries that caused him to miss almost two full seasons heading into 2012. "But I don't think I'm going to stay as a DH [throughout my career]."
At the plate, Morales has regained his timing and found his power stroke, going into Sunday's series finale against the Tigers with three multi-hit games in his last four starts -- including his first triple since 2009 on Friday -- while hitting .311 with a .590 slugging percentage since the start of August.
But even more impressive has been his play on defense. With Pujols still relegated to designated-hitter duties because of an ailing right calf, Morales has started 10 of the Angels' last 12 games at first base and has handled himself well. He made a critical scoop of a low throw from Erick Aybar with the game tied in Friday's ninth inning, and made a nice play on a high chopper on Saturday.
"I was waiting for an opportunity over there," Morales said. "Unfortunately, it came because Albert is hurt, but the ankle has responded well over there for me to help out the team as much as possible."
Morales still shakes his head when asked if he's back to his 2009, near-MVP form.
But he's as close as ever these days.
"Working hard, you can achieve anything," Morales said. "It may take a little longer sometimes, but you get there.
"It's been two years that I've been waking up early every day and basically tolerating pain. I think sacrifice eventually pays off for everyone. I just need to keep working hard."
Izturis to give his back a few days to loosen up
ANAHEIM -- Maicer Izturis' back tightened up in his first plate appearance on Saturday night, and three innings later, he figured he just couldn't play through it any longer, so he was removed. And now, the Angels' backup infielder estimates he'll need about four days for the muscles to loosen up and for him to be deemed available to play.
While starting at third base in Saturday's eventual 6-1 win over the Tigers, Izturis initially felt pain between his left rib cage and back during a first-inning strikeout. He continued to feel it while starting a double play in the second, believes it had a lot to do with his throwing error in the top of the fourth and knew he could no longer play when he started another double play two batters later, causing manager Mike Scioscia to replace him with Alberto Callaspo in the bottom half of the inning.
Izturis felt better on Sunday morning, but will stay away from baseball activities for the time being.
"I just felt locked up," Izturis said in Spanish. "I figured, 'If I keep going, it'll just get worse.' ... I'll just stay off it for a couple of days, ice it, and, like I said, take maybe four days off and get myself ready to finish strong."
The Angels can use Andrew Romine while they wait for Izturis to heal. Like Izturis, Romine can handle second base, third base and shortstop.
Trout sets record for HRs by Halos leadoff man
ANAHEIM -- Mike Trout has started back-to-back games with a home run, and in the process has set a new Angels franchise record for homers by a leadoff hitter, providing further proof that he's as true a five-tool player as they come.
In Saturday's 6-1 win over the Tigers, he hit a leadoff homer off Justin Verlander -- then finished the game by robbing Prince Fielder of a home run. In Sunday's series finale, he opened up the home half of the first inning with a home run to right-center field off Anibal Sanchez, giving him four leadoff homers this season and 27 overall.
That overall total surpasses Brian Downing (1982) and Tony Phillips ('95) for the Angels' club record for homers from the leadoff spot in the lineup. Since 1974, only Nomar Garciaparra (30 in '97 with the Red Sox) has more home runs as a rookie leadoff hitter.
In 478 at-bats during his rookie season in the Majors, Trout has hit four more homers than he did in 1,117 at-bats in his Minor League career.
"They're good," Trout said of the home runs. "I'm just putting good swings on balls that are going out. These last couple games, I've felt like I'm on pitches, and I either foul them off or pop 'em up. But I'm starting to get on top of the ball a little better. The one last night and the one today, it just feels good."
Trumbo, Wells to share time in left field
ANAHEIM -- Who starts in left field for the Angels may be a day-to-day mystery for the foreseeable future.
On Saturday, Vernon Wells took over for the slumping Mark Trumbo, hitting a first-inning RBI double and making a couple of nice running catches in the Angels' 6-1 win. But on Sunday, Trumbo was back in the lineup, getting robbed by Austin Jackson of a two-run homer in the second and making a nice sliding catch in the Angels' 3-2 win.
Trumbo's slump, which dates back to mid-July, has moved him all the way down to the No. 7 spot in manager Mike Scioscia's lineup and has put his everyday role in question, at least for the time being. But he'll still get his chances.
"It's a point in the season where we need some production; that's pretty obvious," Scioscia said. "And we certainly haven't given up on what we know Mark can do, and we want to give Mark an opportunity to contribute and get back to where he can be, and balance that with what Vernon's been able to bring. We have some depth, and hopefully we're going to get some of the production we're looking for out of the left-field spot."
So, the Angels want to continue to ride Trumbo, but he came into Sunday with one hit, 11 strikeouts and no walks in 19 plate appearances in September. And if he continues to struggle, Scioscia won't hesitate to use Wells, who's seemingly adjusting well to his part-time role.
"We have a lot of confidence in what Mark can do, we want to give him an opportunity, obviously, to contribute and get back to where he was, and we have Vernon that's going to obviously get playing time, too," Scioscia said. "So, we'll make decisions. Some of it will be on matchups, some of it will be on if guys look like they're moving towards that end goal of swinging the bat to their capabilities."
Jered Weaver, nursing biceps tendinitis, threw from about 90 feet once again on Sunday morning and may throw what Angels manager Mike Scioscia called a "touch-and-feel" bullpen session on Monday. If he comes out of that fine, he could start Wednesday. But the Angels won't rush him.
"We're not fitting in a schedule for Weave to follow of when he has to pitch," Scioscia said. "We're going to pitch him when he's ready. So, it's going to go according to how he feels. When he's ready to pitch, we'll put him in there."
One day after taking a foul ball to the facemask while calling balls and strikes, Jeff Kellogg was absent from Sunday's game, with Angel Campos joining the umpiring crew and filling in at second base. Kellogg exited Saturday's game in the second inning, shortly after being hit by Torii Hunter's foul ball, and nursed a pretty bad headache while being checked on in the Angel Stadium umpire's room throughout the night. He was said to be feeling better on Sunday.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.