Kendrys Morales is scheduled to increase the intensity of his running drills Monday, the next step in what the Angels hope will be a return from a broken left ankle that has sidelined the slugger for a year and a half.
Morales, who in 2009 hit .306 with 34 home runs and 108 runs batted in, has been hitting from both sides of the plate and jogging for a month, but he told MLB.com on Sunday that he hopes to move closer to sprinting Monday, the first day pitchers and catchers will work out.
"This year, I've felt a lot better compared to last year -- I can do any exercises they give me," Morales said, speaking in Spanish. "Very different from last year. I think for the start [of the season], I should be ready."
The Angels hope to ease the physical and perhaps mental burden on Morales by essentially taking defense out of the equation, at least for most of spring training.
"We're going to focus on getting his legs healthy and in shape, and we'll fold in other aspects and defense much later down the road," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "He's a designated hitter until toward the end of spring, when we can evaluate what he can do."
The Angels have Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo to play first base, but a healthy Morales in the middle of the order could give them an offense to rival any in baseball.
It's far too early to tell whether Morales will return and regain his 2009 stroke, but the Angels are getting excited about the possibility.
"I think we're more optimistic that he can reach a level to fill the need we have as far as swinging from the left side and bringing that presence behind Albert," Scioscia said. "Without that pressure of having to play first base, hopefully that's attainable."