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McPherson expected to sit out most of season

Times Staff Writer

A lower-back injury that limited Dallas McPherson to 61 games in 2005 and 40 games in 2006 probably will sideline the Angels infielder for most, if not all, of the 2007 season.

McPherson all but conceded Friday night that he would need surgery to repair a herniated disk after the core strengthening program he began last fall netted no improvement all winter. Recovery time for surgery, in which two disks would be fused together, can range from six to eight months or more.

“It’s beyond baseball -- it’s getting to the point where it affects your daily life,” said McPherson, who will be examined by an orthopedic spine specialist Monday in Dallas. “Just getting out of bed, tying my shoes, putting on my pants, is painful.”

After consulting several specialists last summer and fall, McPherson, who hoped to compete for the first base and third base jobs this spring, opted for an extensive rehabilitation program over surgery.

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“I started one week after the season, and it never got better,” McPherson, 26, said. “Then I started getting ready for spring training in early January, and it hurt the whole time. I’d run at 50%, and pain would shoot down my leg. If I tried to bend or move across my body, there was sharp pain, and I’d be real sore the next day.”

Is surgery the next step?

“It’s starting to look that way,” McPherson said. “In September, the doctors agreed the best thing to do was rehab. I know I’ve done everything the doctors told me to do, and it’s not better. It looks like it’s hurt worse than I thought. Six months of pain is really too much for me.”

McPherson hit 40 minor league home runs in 2004 and was considered such a promising power prospect that the Angels let third baseman Troy Glaus leave as a free agent after the 2004 season.

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But injuries have prevented McPherson from gaining a foothold in the major leagues, and now they’re threatening to torpedo his 2007 season and, potentially, his baseball career.

“Of course I’m concerned,” McPherson said. “But from everything I’ve been told, if the surgery goes well, I rehab hard and don’t try to rush back, I will return to normal and get back on the field.”

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Casey Kotchman, who sat out all but 29 games last season while recovering from the effects of mononucleosis, returned Friday from a two-month winter-ball stint in Puerto Rico and said he “felt good, I feel like I got my strength and energy back, I have a lot of pep.”

Kotchman batted about .265 with three home runs in 45-50 games in Puerto Rico, ending his season with an eight-game hitting streak, but more important, he was able to play every inning of every game, including a stretch in which rainouts forced his team to play 13 games in nine days.

“It was a breath of fresh air to just play again, to feel good again,” said Kotchman, who will look to win his first base job back this spring. “I got more comfortable toward the end. I started to get my rhythm back.”

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Kendry Morales, who injured his right knee before a Jan. 9 game in the Dominican Republic, will return to Southern California to be examined Monday by team physician, Lewis Yocum, and to undergo an MRI test.

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Though the injury isn’t considered serious, Morales, who was batting .263 with a league-leading 11 home runs in 46 games for the Gigantes de Cibao, sat out the remainder of the postseason, from which his team was eliminated Wednesday.

“He’s still got a little soreness,” General Manager Bill Stoneman said. “We want our doctors to look at him.”

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Former Angels closer Troy Percival, who suffered a career-ending elbow injury with the Detroit Tigers last spring, was hired as a special assignment pitching instructor for the Angels Friday.

Percival, whose 324 saves rank 11th on the all-time list, will attend spring training and travel to the team’s affiliates to evaluate pitchers in the club’s farm system throughout the season.

“I’m looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my baseball career, and assisting those in charge in any manner they need from me,” Percival said in a team-issued release. “The Angels have been an important part of my career and life, and I couldn’t be happier to be part of the organization.”

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mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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