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Kendry Morales

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Kendry Morales Rodriguez (born June 20, 1983, in Fomento, Cuba) is a Major League Baseball first baseman for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He is a switch hitter and throws right-handed.

Cuban careerEdit

While playing in Cuba's equivalent of the United States' Triple-A level, and with only 16-17 year olds in the category, where he was the first starter of the pitching staff, and fourth in the batting order, plus his ability to hit home runs from both sides of the plate.

Morales joined the Cuban national baseball team in 2002 and immediately became a star player—despite being the first teenager to make the team in nearly twenty years. He was the cleanup hitter on the team during its dramatic 2003 World Cup championship. His grand slam in the final round against Taiwan secured a 6-3 Cuban victory, one game after hitting a home run that provided the winning runs against Brazil.

In his first—of two and a half—full season with Havana's Industriales, in 2002, Morales had a batting average of .324 with 21 home runs and 82 RBI, and pitched in a game during the regular season, setting seven rookie records in the process (including HR and RBI); and obviously becoming Rookie of the Year, being considered the best rookie history of Cuban baseball. In his second season, although he did not hit as many home runs as in his rookie season, due to a lesion, he finished with a .391 batting average.

Morales' stardom in Cuba was short-lived, however. He was sent back to Cuba from Panama during the Olympic qualifying round in November 2003 for making contact with an agent. It was the last time he would suit up as a Cuban.

Coming to the United StatesEdit

By early 2004, Cuba's national team and the Industriales banned Morales from their teams for disciplinary reasons due to their belief that he had met with people in an attempt to flee the nation. Morales denies this accusation, telling a reporter "That's not true. I never talked to any agent. But from that moment on, I just wanted to leave. I tried to do it several times without success, occasionally ending up in jail." He escaped on a raft in June 2004 to the shores of southern Florida, his 12th attempt at escape.[1]

But, as is the usual practice of defectors, he chose to leave the country to establish foreign residency so as to avoid the MLB draft. He left once again, this time to the Dominican Republic, where he was privately scouted by several Major League teams. Preston Gómez, in his role as consultant to Angels general manager Bill Stoneman, ended up signing him to a six-year deal with three-million dollars up front in December 2004. Morales played winter ball for the Estrellas Orientales Dominican team to keep himself in game shape. [1]

Minor league careerEdit

By the spring of 2005, the Angels hoped to have Morales practice in the Cactus League to get ready for a quick ascension through their farm system or possibly even make the team as the designated hitter. Because he was not yet a citizen, the Dominican government held up granting Morales the necessary passport to fly back to the U.S. for several months. He was not able to get all his paperwork in order until late May and he finally made his minor league debut on May 21 for the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

To help his new club scout his ability against U.S. pitching, Morales began his minor league career with nearby Rancho Cucamonga. After three weeks of easy hitting (his batting average was .344, with 5 home runs), he was moved up to Double-A Arkansas, where he was second on the team in home runs despite playing there for only half the season. When that season ended, he was chosen by the Angels to play fall ball for the Surprise Scorpions.

Major league careerEdit

Morales had a strong spring training in 2006 for the Angels, but failed to make the 25-man roster. He ultimately made his Major League debut on May 23, 2006, playing first base and going 3-for-5, including a home run in his second at bat, versus the Texas Rangers. Thereafter he performed well enough to be the Angels regular first baseman until his eventual demotion back to Triple-A on July 23, 2006.

2009 seasonEdit

Morales enjoyed a breakout year in his first full-season. He hit 34 home runs and slugged .569, ranking second only to AL MVP Joe Mauer in the AL.

Morales was promoted to starting first basemen after Mark Teixeira (Angels first baseman for the 2008 season) left the Angels due to free agency in the winter of 2008. Morales said of the timing of his promotion, "The guys that played ahead of me were seasoned players, and I didn't deserve to play in the big leagues yet. The one thing I thought about -- not how long I had to wait -- was just to concentrate on playing well once that opportunity came."[2]

He hit well in the first half, and hit extremely well in the second half of 2009, and was named AL Player of the Month in August when he drove in 33 runs in 28 games with 10 homers, batting .385 and slugging .734. His performance led to talk of him being a possible American League MVP,[3] eventually placing 5th in MVP voting behind Joe Mauer, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Miguel Cabrera.[4]

2010 seasonEdit

During a game against the Seattle Mariners on May 29, 2010, Morales hit a walk-off grand slam off of Brandon League. It was his first career grand slam but while celebrating with teammates after rounding the bases, Morales fractured his lower left leg, landing awkwardly on home plate. He was immediately placed on the 15-day DL although he will require surgery. Due to the severity of the injury, he likely will miss the remainder of the 2010 season.

Personal lifeEdit

Morales has a wife, Yarley, with whom he has two kids: Hanely and Kendry Jr.

2009 HighlightsEdit

  • During 2009 spring training in Arizona, Morales led all players in doubles, with 11, while batting .400.[2]
  • On May 31, 2009, capped an 8–1 Angels' comeback with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Seattle Mariners 9–8. [3]
  • Was selected the American League Player of the Week for the period ending August 2. [5]
  • On August 28, 2009, went 5-for-5 with six RBI, including two home runs and two doubles, to lead Angels' comeback over the Oakland Athletics, 11–7. He also surpassed Chili Davis' franchise record for the single season home run record by a switch-hitter with 29 and tied Davis' franchise record of four extra-base hits in a game. [6]
  • Was named the American League Player of the Month for August, after hit .385 (42-for-109) with 10 home runs, eight doubles, 22 runs, and 33 RBI in 28 games. He also set a new club record for RBI in the month, previously held by Bobby Bonds (31, 1977) and was one RBI shy of the franchise record for any month. [7]

ReferencesEdit

  1. Rojas, Enrique. "Hitting on all cylinders, all shores", ESPNDeportes.com, 2009-09-21. Retrieved on 2009-10-26.
  2. Spencer, Lyle (2009-09-12). Perseverance pays off for Halos' Morales. MLB.com. Retrieved on 2009-10-25.
  3. Spencer, Lyle (2009-11-22). Morales in running for AL MVP Award: First baseman finished second in slugging percentage. MLB.com. Retrieved on 2009-11-22.
  4. Spencer, Kyle. "Morales' marvelous year nets fifth place", November 23, 2009. Retrieved on 2009-11-26.

External linksEdit

Preceded by:
Bobby Abreu
American League Player of the Month
August, 2009
Succeeded by:
Billy Butler

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