When Michael Morse was last in the Seattle Mariners’ clubhouse at the Peoria (Ariz.) Sports Complex, he was still in the “be seen, not heard” portion of his career.
He had undeniable tools, and the sort of long, sleek physique that appeals to scouts. But Morse was still feeling his way around and wondering if, or when, his opportunity would come.
“When I was here last time, I’m over at my locker twiddling my fingers, hoping I don’t get called in the office,” he said Wednesday morning.
What a contrast four years later. Morse returns as an established major-leaguer, with a new moniker (he’s Michael, not Mike), at least 30 more pounds of bulk, and the relaxed, self-assured bearing of someone who knows he belongs.
Players gravitate now to Morse, who is both seen and heard. On Wednesday, as he did a live interview with MLB Network from the stadium press box, the entire team gathered around the clubhouse television to listen. They roared with laughter as Morse lifted up his leg to display a tattoo honoring his Jamaican roots.
But it’s not Morse’s presence in the clubhouse that most appeals to the Mariners, though that’s a nice bonus.
They hope – they need – for Morse to give their lineup some heft, some gravitas, that has been sorely missing in recent years.
It’s not a task he can accomplish alone, but he embraces the part he can play in giving the Mariners some swagger.
Even in batting practice, Morse admits he’s trying to muscle up, leading to the tape-measure shots like the one he hit into the parking lot the other day.
“Your heart’s beating fast. They brought you in because they expected you to hit homers, you’d better launch some stuff in BP,” he said.
Two years ago, Morse hit .303 with 31 home runs for the Nationals, far outstripping the journeyman for whom he was traded by the Mariners, Ryan Langerhans.