"That was rough," he said, "but sometimes what we think is the worst thing that can happen to us, turns out to be the best thing. There's always a positive in every negative and you just have to look for it."Ibanez eventually found his "positive" in Kansas City, but not before twice being designated for assignment during the 2001 season. He credits three days of workouts and talks with former Royals player Kevin Seitzer for turning his career around. "I tried to tell myself, and convince myself, that circumstances didn't define me," Ibanez said. "Who I was in my mind wasn't necessarily who I was in reality. I tried to picture in my mind, regardless of what was going on around me, that I was this other player. "The manifestation of that player didn't become a reality until I went to Kansas City." Finally given an opportunity to control his own destiny, Ibanez became a productive offensive player, batting at least .280 in three seasons with the Royals, hitting 55 home runs and driving in 247 runs. He has been even more productive during his second tour with the Mariners. It might work out that Morse has to move on to become an everyday player in the big leagues. He agreed that this spring could be an "audition." Every Major League team has scouts in the Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues. One of the most difficult decisions of this camp could come down to which of the six outfielders in camp emerges as the fourth outfielder on the 25-man Opening Day roster. Morse and Charlton Jimerson are out of options, while Reed and Wladimir Balentien have at least one option remaining. "That is something we have to consider, for sure," manager John McLaren said. "We know we have some guys out of options and that's why we didn't bring any veteran [outfielders] in. We wanted these guys to get the at-bats, give them a fair shot. "It will be a tough decision, but I like that. I think competition brings out the best in all of us. If you have right insides, it will make you focus more, concentrate more and make you a better ballplayer. I have always said, if you have talent and you compete and you like competition, you will reach your potential if you let yourself. I have always believed that." Morse credits his offseason talks with Ibanez for coming to camp with such a positive attitude. "When Raul speaks, you listen. That motivated me and pumped me up, and kept my head on the right track. There's a lot of times when you start doubting yourself and think, 'I'm never going to make it.' " He still doesn't know the answer to that one, and neither does Ibanez. But a clear mind sure helps. "I'm 100 percent more relaxed than before," Morse said. "I'm having fun. In the past, I tried to do too much and was stressed out all the time, and that only hurts you. Now, I am playing my game, having fun and letting my skills take over." Ibanez has noticed a difference. "I have seen him in other camps and worked out with him one other time [in the offseason]," Ibanez said. "The guy I worked with this past winter was a different guy. He was more focused, more intense, more mature." It has carried over to this spring. "I'm playing these [Cactus League] games like it's the regular season," he said.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less