Go Kendry Morales.

The one non-Rangers player I’m rooting for right now is Kendry Morales, who is hitting .318/.348/.773 over the last week, with an Angels-leading three home runs and six RBI in that span, and just one strikeout in 22 at-bats.  

Yes, he’s been playing just as much right field as first base since returning to Anaheim five weeks ago, but that’s just been to get his bat into the lineup somehow, to figure out whether he belongs on the Angels’ post-season roster.  But don’t be fooled.  Morales was almost exclusively a first baseman in AAA this year (where he hit .341/.376/.543) and has been close to it over his entire career (313 games at first base professionally and 24 in the outfield).  

I’m rooting for Morales because I want Angels GM Tony Reagins to decide that, at $600,000 in 2009 (and $700,000 in 2010, unless Morales amasses enough service time next year to void his 2010 deal in favor of arbitration), a commitment to the 25-year-old makes more sense for the franchise than the six or eight years and a number comfortably into nine-figure territory for 28-year-old Mark Teixeira.

Teixeira has played as well in his two months with the Angels (.351/.446/.613) as he has at any time in his very productive six-year career.  

I would very much like for him to suit up next year and for years after that for a team that we don’t have to play 19 times a season, for a team that we’re not going to have to figure out a way to catch.  

Go Kendry Morales.

The Rays clinched a playoff spot yesterday.  That makes me happy.

I wrote last time that 31 of the 53 Rangers players who have reported to fall instructs pitch.  Make that 32.  While it’s not a wholesale transition from hitter to pitcher (as with Corey Ragsdale and Johan Yan), the Rangers are going to have Mitch Moreland get in some mound work.  

A college closer, the 23-year-old mopped up two Clinton losses late in the season (striking out three in two innings of work), but his real breakthrough came at the plate.  The 2007 17th-rounder led the Midwest League with a .936 OPS, 250 total bases, and 99 RBI in 123 games, and he hit 18 home runs, fifth-most in the league.  

The left-hander, who played first base and right field for the LumberKings this year, will probably do the same for Bakersfield in 2009, but the plan to look at him on the mound over the next three weeks (as first base is obviously going to be a blocked path, with Justin Smoak on a similar developmental track) is certainly interesting.

According to journalists, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nelson Cruz, Brandon Boggs, Joaquin Arias, German Duran, Travis Metcalf, and Max Ramirez all have winter ball assignments lined up.  Saltalamacchia is targeting a November 15 return to the field as he rehabs his elbow strain.  He’ll play for Escogido in the Dominican Winter League.

Ron Washington reportedly wants Chris Davis to play this winter as well, and to do so at first base.

There’s obviously a big question as to where Davis will play defensively next year, something that will be sorted out this off-season as Texas decides what to do with Hank Blalock (both with his club option and, if exercised, his defensive position) and, if Blalock is no longer around, whether the club opts to go forward in 2009 with a new first baseman, or new third baseman.  

While it’s not clear where Davis will be in April, Washington’s comment suggests an inclination to return him to first base.

I really hope the Angels, with some help from the Yankees and Orioles, are inclined to go with their own young hitter at first base as well.

You can read more from Jamey Newberg at www.NewbergReport.com.

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