Mighty Morse is bullish on Mariners' chances

Mighty Morse is bullish on Mariners' chances

PEORIA, Ariz. -- As Michael Morse went live on MLB Network's Hot Stove show Wednesday morning from the nearby press box at Peoria Stadium, his Mariners teammates gathered around the TV in the team's clubhouse and howled at his entertaining interview with Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian.

Morse, 30, has quickly become a physical and vocal presence with the Mariners, a hulking 6-foot-5, 245-pounder with a constant smile and endless energy. So, yeah, when asked to go on national TV, he jumped at the opportunity.

"For me, any time you can get publicity for Seattle, I'm with it," Morse said when he arrived back in the clubhouse. "A lot of times, especially teams that aren't doing well, they get overlooked. Anytime you can get the fans or the world to say, 'Oh yeah, Seattle.' ... I want to get that hype, that feeling back about Seattle and the Mariners."

Morse is bullish on his new/old team. He joined the Mariners in a trade from the White Sox in 2004 and remembers the positive vibe still lingering from the 116-win season in 2001 and the packed houses at Safeco Field. He wants badly to help bring back that buzz.

"They say, 'After time, things start diminishing,'" Morse said. "You really don't hear any more about those great years."

But Morse has seen indications of positive things to come in his brief time back with the club, particularly since live batting practice began on Monday.

"The biggest thing I've noticed about this team -- and I've really noticed the last two days -- is the amount of young pitching," he said. "These guys throw hard. I know a couple bad years you get good picks or whatever it might be, but there's some talent here that's ready to be unleashed. And I hope I can be a part of it for years to come."

Morse stood in against 20-year-old pitching prospect Taijuan Walker on Tuesday, took a few pitches and then swung awkwardly late on a couple heaters.

"I wasn't ready for that at all," Morse said with a grin. "Especially when they told me he was 19 or whatever. He was throwing an easy 94 or 95 [mph]. Man, I got a little angry in the box. I'm like, 'C'mon Mike, bear down, show this kid who's boss.' But stuff like that gets you excited about an organization."

Morse sees similarities to his time with the Nationals, who finally broke through after years of frustration to earn a postseason berth last year when they won the National League East.

"Absolutely," he said. "Like I'm saying about these young pitchers, in D.C., we had guys like Jordan Zimmermann, [Stephen] Strasburg, Ross Detwiler, these were young guys who were in Triple-A, September-callup-kind-of guys, and they were ready to get unleashed.

"That's like here, these guys are getting to that point. They might not know, but I've seen it. I've been part of an organization that's happened to. So it makes me excited, because I know what's to come. And I can't wait to see it happen."

Mariners fans should be eager to see what Morse brings as well. He put on a power display the first couple days of batting practice, blasting some tape-measure home runs that opened eyes.

"The first couple days, your heart's beating fast, you know they brought you in because they're expecting you to hit homers," Morse said. "You better launch some stuff in BP. Let's just say I wasn't trying to hit the ball the other way."

Manager Eric Wedge likes what Morse has brought to the club already.

"From what I can see early on here, he cares about his teammates, he enjoys the game, has fun playing the game, yet when it's time to work, he works," Wedge said. "It's important to him. He obviously has presence and he's experienced a lot in a short period of time for a guy who is five years into his big league career. I think all that bodes well for him and for us."

The difference between Morse now and when he left Seattle in a trade for outfielder Ryan Langerhans in June 2009 is largely about confidence. He was a big, lanky infielder when he started out in Seattle and a developing prospect when he was traded.

Morse returns oozing confidence and charisma, courtesy of big league success with the Nats.

"When I was here last time, I'm over in my locker right now, twiddling my fingers, hoping I don't get called to the office," Morse said. "But one of the things I've learned with my career, I've been to the lowest of lows and highest of highs. So I try to stay even-keeled. I just try to be me.

"I go on the field and do what I can to my ability. I don't try to do more, I don't try to do less, I just try to go out there and play my game. And I have fun with it. I trust in myself, I believe in myself. No matter what I do or how I start, I know at the end of the year I'll be where I want to be and I know the team will be there. That's why I focus on the team, because I know I'm going to do my part. So I relax, I have fun and I try not to stress."

As for Morse's physical presence? He indeed figures to be an imposing figure in the middle of a Mariners lineup that has been missing that for several years. And Morse won't be alone.

"It's just the presence of veteran guys," Morse said. "The presence of Raul Ibanez, my big secret Jason Bay, this league knows Kendrys Morales and what he can do, and he's going to help a lot. Then you've got guys like Kyle Seager who showed what they're capable of in just a short time last year.

"So it's going to be exciting. It's going to be good. I can't wait to get everybody together, get a couple games of Spring Training out of the way and then we start to flow as a team. It'll be interesting to see what we've got."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.