TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - Albert Pujols looks like the same feared slugger he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. Kendrys Morales is one step closer to returning to the lineup, and Garrett Richards is making a push for a spot in the rotation.
The Los Angeles Angels are having a very nice spring training.
Pujols hit his third home run and Richards struck out six in four innings, lifting a split-squad to a 7-0 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Friday.
Morales also played in a game for the first time in 22 months after testing his right calf in morning baserunning drills. He batted five times while alternating between Double-A and Triple-A games against minor leaguers from the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization.
Morales hasn't played since breaking his left ankle while jumping on home plate to celebrate a game-ending grand slam May 29, 2010. The Cuban slugger appeared to be on the verge of stardom after batting .306 with 34 homers and 108 RBIs in 2009, but has undergone several procedures on his injured ankle, including a bone graft and surgery to remove scar tissue last year.
Morales said through an interpreter that he felt fine and was really happy with his day. When pressed on whether he felt he would be ready for the regular-season opener, Morales said it would depend on how he performed the remainder of spring training and the decision would be made by the Angels' staff.
Richards allowed three hits and walked none in his third spring start.
``My slider was my strikeout pitch today,' said Richards, who went 0-2 with a 5.79 ERA in seven appearances for the Angels last season. ``I felt good about everything. Today I felt I could throw anything for a strike.'
Before Friday's game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia identified Richards, Trevor Bell, Jerome Williams, Brad Mills and Eric Hurley as candidates for the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Scioscia said he probably wouldn't need a fifth starter until April 15.
Williams was the front-runner for the spot entering spring training, but the right-hander has missed most of camp with a hamstring pull. He was 4-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 10 games with the Angels last season, including six starts.
Richards has allowed two earned runs over nine spring innings.
``We knew the spot was going to be open,' said Richards, who was 12-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 22 games with Double-A Arkansas last season. ``I just wanted to come in and show them what I've got.'
Erick Aybar hit a leadoff homer in the first inning for the Angels. Two batters later, Pujols connected against Kevin Slowey.
Pujols hit another long drive the next time up, but center fielder Felix Pie caught it against the wall.
Slowey, also competing for a spot in the rotation, allowed three runs and five hits in three innings. The right-hander was 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA with Minnesota in 2011.
``I recognize that I'm competing for a position here,' Slowey said. ``Whatever it is, you're always fighting for something. I don't feel any more pressure. Every time out I'm just trying to get guys out.
``The challenge is the (arm) angle on my fastball and keeping the ball down. I haven't been able to do that yet. At this point I'd like to be further along than I am. I'm getting closer. I'd prefer not to give up two homers in the first inning. Look at their lineup. They've got one of the best offenses in the game.'
NOTES: Angels slugger Mark Trumbo, who is learning how to play third base this spring, was charged with an error on a high chopper between third and shortstop. He later bobbled another slow chopper toward third, but it was ruled a hit. ... Angels C Chris Iannetta left in the second inning after being struck on the right elbow by a foul ball off the bat of Russ Canzler. Scioscia said he was waiting to hear more before commenting on Iannetta's playing status. ... Indians DH Travis Hafner went 4 for 4.
The Associated Press News Service
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