ANAHEIM -- Angels manager Mike Scioscia sensed a weight come off Kendry Morales' shoulders on Wednesday night the moment he lifted a breaking pitch by Justin Verlander over the wall in right field for a three-run homer.
"Tell you what," Scioscia said on Thursday, reflecting on his first baseman's first homer of the season in the first inning a night prior. "After Kendry hit that home run, you could see him exhale. That has importance for a guy.
"You have to go out and earn it. It's a proving ground. Kendry hasn't swung the bat to his capabilities yet. It shows the talent he has. He's an important player for us."
Morales added a two-run single in the fifth inning, giving him a five-RBI night. But his headlines were yanked out from under him by the Tigers when they scored five times in the seventh and once in the ninth for a 12-10 triumph.
Morales through 14 games is hitting .250 with nine RBIs. His slugging (.385) and on-base (.304) numbers are not where the Angels had hoped they'd be after watching him rip line drives all spring across the Cactus League and in the Dominican Winter League.
"There's an adjustment that comes into play from at-bat to at-bat," Scioscia said. "Hopefully, Kendry will make a quick study."
On the first-inning at-bat that gave Joe Saunders a 3-2 lead, Morales fouled off several Verlander heaters in the 96-97-mph range before the big right-hander left a curveball in the wheelhouse of the switch-hitter from Cuba.
"That was a great at-bat," Scioscia said of the nine-pitch confrontation. "He fouled off some tough fastballs and ended up hitting a hanging breaking ball out of the park. He was staying through the middle [of the field] but tried to stay with that breaking pitch a little longer, and he was able to pull it.
"I don't think it was a total surprise to see a breaking ball 3-2. He has three pitches he can use in any count."
With Casey Kotchman having been dealt to Atlanta in exchange for Mark Teixeira, who left for the Yankees' free-agency riches, Morales will be under a microscope this season.
"Kendry can drive the ball from both sides," Scioscia said. "We're confident he can get the job done for us."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.