By Jim Moore
If you’re like me, you stop everything that you’re doing when Michael Morse is in the batter’s box.
I was on my way upstairs to talk to one of my bosses last Friday but had to stop to watch Morse on the flat screen in the lobby. He struck out in a 10-pitch at-bat, which made me a few minutes late to see my boss, but I think he understood.
It’s been awhile since the Mariners have had a hitter like Morse, who arrives for Monday night’s home opener against Houston with five home runs during the seven-game season-opening road trip.
Through seven games, Michael Morse leads the American League in home runs with five. (AP)
Morse hit four of his blasts in Oakland, including the first two in Tuesday’s win. One was an opposite-field shot that barely cleared the wall. The other was a tee shot that went at least 440 feet to center.
His latest homer was a screamer to left that left U.S. Cellular Field in a hurry, giving the M’s a 2-0 lead in the top of the first Sunday in Chicago.
Seattle’s marine layer would not have bothered Morse last year. And this year, even when the layer is at its thickest, Morse will drive balls through it and over the moved-in fences at Safeco Field. He didn’t need help from construction workers. As he said when the Mariners traded for him in the offseason, Morse feels like he can hit balls out of the Grand Canyon.
This is what we were hoping for when the Mariners traded John Jaso to Oakland in a three-team deal that brought Morse to Seattle from the Nationals.
M’s fans would love to see Morse hit 30 homers this year, and now it appears he will if he stays healthy.
Morse also figures to hit for average, which isn’t typical for sluggers. In 2011, an injury-free season, Morse averaged .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs. Even last year when an injury caused him to miss 64 games, Morse still hit .289 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs.
In addition, he’s a better defensive player than I was led to believe. I thought every fly ball would be an adventure for him, but only a few have been so far. He has yet to commit an error. He doesn’t look like Milton Bradley out there. He looks like he knows what he’s doing, whether in right or left field.
When Danny O’Neill, Dave Wyman and I talked to him a week and a half ago, Morse said he doesn’t know where this talk of him being a defensive liability comes from. He thinks on a scale of 1 to 10, he’s a 9.5 as an outfielder.
I love that he loves being here. Morse could have been upset, going from a World Series contender in Washington to a team that might contend but probably won’t this year. But he’s excited to be back as a Mariner.
As good as he was in the first inning with the two-run homer Sunday, Morse struck out in his next four at-bats. On two occasions, he whiffed with two runners on base, once after the White Sox intentionally walked Kendrys Morales to get to him.
I thought sure he’d make them pay for that, but he fanned on an outside fastball in the 10th inning. Give him a golden sombrero if you want; he gets a full season of slack from me for finally turning on the power in Seattle.
Morse will come through more often than not. In Washington, he was known as “The Beast.” His Twitter handle is @SEA_Beast38. Marshawn Lynch is the beast around here. But the way that Morse has been swinging the bat, there’s room in town for another.