Morse already fitting in well with Giants
Outfielder brings power, charisma and humor to new team
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Michael Morse is asked about the amusement-park ride that is his career, the one with some pretty high highs and some pretty low lows and no real way of knowing if he'll trend upward or downward next.
He does what he usually does. He smiles. He laughs a little. He comes up with the only explanation he can muster.
"It's baseball," he says. "It's just baseball."
It wasn't terribly long ago that Morse was a shortstop in the White Sox organization who arrived in Seattle via a 2004 multi-player trade that sent Freddy Garcia to Chicago. Morse never could make a lasting impact with the Mariners as he bounced up and down from the Minors to the Majors, changed positions and was eventually shipped to Washington for Ryan Langerhans in 2009.
In 2010, he got steady time with the Nationals while playing mostly in right field, and he was a revelation at the plate in 266 at-bats, putting up a line of .289/.352/.519 and hitting 15 home runs while driving in 41 runs. In 2011, he was even better, playing first base and left field and getting the most at-bats of his career (522). Morse batted .303/.360/.550 with 31 homers and 95 RBIs. He wound up 19th in the National League MVP voting.
Since then, Morse has shown glimpses of that one-year brilliance, like the 18 homers he hit in an injury-shortened 2012 campaign, but the bangs and bruises have added up. He was brought back to Seattle prior to the 2013 season to add thunder to a weak lineup and help mentor a young team, but quad and wrist injuries robbed him of any consistency at the plate, and by the time the Mariners dealt him to the Orioles, Morse just seemed out of whack. He was 3-for-29 with Baltimore down the stretch.
He'll turn 32 in nine days, and Morse still has plenty to prove. He's hoping things will come back around again with the Giants, who signed him to a one-year, $6 million deal to be their left fielder. Already he likes what he's been seeing.
"This is probably the best team I've ever played on," Morse said. "It's a first-class organization, first-class team, first-class coaches. I can't say enough. Since the first day I came through the door, it was like I belonged. I'm having so much fun, learning a lot out in the outfield.
"This team's not rebuilding. We have one goal, and that's to win the championship -- get to the playoffs and win the World Series. And my role on this team is to just come in and play my game. There's no trying to do anything out of what I can do. Just come in here and play. I'm loving it."
His teammates are loving it, too. Morse's outfield mate, Hunter Pence, said Morse blended right in with the club and has established himself as a bit of a leader, too.
"He's a big impact to this team, on the field, with his bat in the lineup, and having that presence, that knowledge, the ability to drive in close to 100 runs, could be 100 runs," Pence said. "Also he's hit 30 home runs, so what he's done on the field is great, but also what he brings to the clubhouse.
"He's got charisma. He's a fun guy. He brings a lot of humor every day and he's fun to be around."
Right now, Morse isn't having much fun. He's been out since Friday's game against Kansas City, when he was removed in the fourth inning with a calf strain. It's a day-to-day situation, though, so Morse didn't seem particularly downcast about it.
"We're confident he'll be ready in four or five days," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said prior to Thursday night's game against the Rangers at Surprise Stadium. "During the season, could he play? Probably. But we're trying to get rid of it completely, so we'll back off. ... We'll still get him 10, 11 days here to get his at-bats."
Morse said he doesn't know what to expect with his health this year and he won't spend much time thinking about it.
"We play 100 percent, and you don't go out there and play to not get hurt," Morse said. "Injuries happen, and I guess some people are more prone to injuries. I get hit by pitches, I break things, I don't know. I just don't try to let it get me down."
That's why he was smiling Thursday. Even though he's had some tough breaks and has a ways to climb to get back to where he once was, Morse seems up for the challenge.
"I've done that my whole career," Morse said. "Ever since I started, it's been a wild ride. I wouldn't want it any other way."