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Morales faces former team for first time with M's

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As soon as the Angels signed Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract on Dec. 13, Kendrys Morales pretty much knew his time with the Angels was over.

"I already figured something was in the works," Morales said in Spanish. "I was ready for the call they gave me. It didn't take me by surprise at all."

Six days later, that call came from general manager Jerry Dipoto, who informed the switch-hitting slugger and career Angel that he was being traded to the Mariners in exchange for starting pitcher Jason Vargas. On Monday, Morales made his spring debut against his old team at Peoria Sports Complex, going 0-for-3 while batting cleanup as Seattle's designated hitter.

"I was really happy to see those guys again," said Morales, who was signed by the Angels in 2005. "It's been five or six months since I saw them. They're on the other side, but that doesn't matter. We played six-plus years together. The trainers, too. It's the first time I played against them, but now I have to defend another jersey."

Walking around the Mariners complex, Morales sported his trademark smile, rocked his typical cutoff sleeves and, as always, had an ice bag on his left ankle, which required two surgeries and once put his burgeoning career on hold.

The May 2010 incident, when he famously suffered a broken leg while stomping on home plate, was the low point of Morales' Angels career. But there were several highs. Like the '09 season that saw him finish fifth in American League Most Valuable Player voting. Or '12, when he made a remarkable comeback by hitting .273 with 22 homers and 73 RBIs in 134 games.

"I would've liked to stay in the organization I signed with," Morales said, "but you have to respect the decisions they made. They're the ones in charge."

Morales is happy with his new situation. He likes the Mariners' young talent, loves that they're moving the fences in at Safeco Field -- perfect timing for a pending free agent -- and is relieved to be pretty much done with rehab.

Morales only had good things to say about his time with the Angels, and though there were times last year when he was frustrated he wasn't in the lineup, he understands now that the Angels were just looking out for his health after he had been away for so long.

Morales was shocked that he was traded to an AL West rival, but he wasn't surprised he'll spend 2013 on a new team.

"As soon as they signed [Hamilton], I started preparing myself," Morales said. "I knew they were going to trade me. They didn't tell me anything; I just figured that would be the case. And it happened pretty quickly after that."