Angels manager Mike Scioscia talked as far back as the winter meetings in Florida last December of how important slugging first baseman Kendrys Morales would be in the middle of the 2011 lineup, but Morales on Wednesday went from a late-starter to non-starter.
In a devastating blow to the Angels, Morales will undergo a second surgery on his troubled left ankle and miss the entire season.
The Angels said early this spring that they thought Morales would be healed and ready to go by opening day after undergoing surgery early last June to repair a fractured left ankle suffered when he leaped onto home plate after hitting a game-ending grand slam last May 29.
However, Morales' ankle did not respond this spring when he tried to run on it and he never could get liftoff. He never could run at full speed this spring, and he never improved. As Scioscia said, he "plateaued."
That carried into the season -- he's been on the disabled list since opening day -- and Morales on Tuesday traveled to Colorado to see a specialist to get a second opinion.
That opinion led to his decision a day later to undergo another surgery -- still unscheduled -- that will clean out debris and scar tissue. Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum said the doctors in Colorado will begin the surgery arthroscopically and hope to conclude it that way. There is the chance, however, that they would have to go into the ankle again. Morales is expected to schedule the surgery soon.
"Kendrys has worked as hard as any athlete I've ever worked with in coming back from a devastating injury, and he hasn't been able to do it," Yocum said.
The remaining options were to continue to treat the injury and healing process conservatively, or to undergo another surgery.
"Did I think I'd be at this point? No," Morales said through a translator as the Angels played the White Sox on Wednesday. "But, obviously, I think this is the best decision."
Morales slugged 34 home runs, collected 108 RBI and finished fifth in the AL MVP balloting in 2009. He was hitting .290 with 11 homers and 39 RBI through 51 games at the time of his injury last May.
The Angels were planning on his bat returning as a major weapon in 2011.
But they and Yocum said Morales will be out a "minimum of six months" following this second surgery.
"It's definitely a challenge for us, not having Kendrys," general manager Tony Reagins said. "He's a significant part of what we do. In the middle of our lineup, he's definitely a significant bat."
But the Angels learned to play without him last year, Reagins said, and they must do the same in 2011. Of course, the Angels also finished 80-82 without him last summer.