The answer virtually every player gives to that question: "Everything."

The reporter has to ask even though he already knows the answer. Then he asks Michael Morse and almost falls over.">
The answer virtually every player gives to that question: "Everything."

The reporter has to ask even though he already knows the answer. Then he asks Michael Morse and almost falls over.">

Morse Taking Full Advantage of Arizona Fall League

The most common question asked by reporters in the Arizona Fall League: "What part of your game are you working on this fall?" <br><br> The answer virtually every player gives to that question: "Everything." <br><br> The reporter has to ask even though he already knows the answer. Then he asks Michael Morse and almost falls over.

"97 percent of the reason I'm down here is defense," says Morse, a 6-foot-5 shortstop who spent 2004 at Double-A San Antonio after coming over to the Mariners organization at midseason.

"On days when I'm not playing, I'm out here at 9 a.m. working with [Mariners rep and manager of the AFL's Peoria Javelinas] Mike Goff taking ground balls. I know I have work to do, but I want to do the work. I want to show people I can play short."

At his height, "playing short" doesn't come easy, but Morse isn't worried. He spreads the credit around for his improvement. He was acquired by the Mariners in the deal that sent Freddy Garcia to the White Sox, and leaving that organization wasn't easy for Morse.

"It was tough to leave because that's the organization that made me a baseball player, and made me a shortstop," said Morse. "I spent a lot of time with Manny Trillo and Rafael Santana. They worked with me all off season last year helping turn me from an athlete into a shortstop. But it was also exciting to come to the Mariners because as a big guy at short I've always looked at Alex Rodriguez because he's almost as tall as me, and the Mariners were the team that brought him along."

There have been comparisons, because of his size and swing, to Richie Sexson,

"Yeah, I hear that a lot," said Morse, and I also hear a lot of stuff about Troy Glaus, because he came up as a shortstop and was big like me."

Pretty big comparisons, but not big enough for Morse.

"I want to be compared to A-Rod," he said. "I want to because I want to stay at short, and the Mariners know how to do this. These guys have taken big guys and molded them into shortstops."

Watching Morse in the batting cage, it becomes pretty obvious why defense is the focus down here. The kid can flat out hit.

Morse gets interviewed just before batting practice. He's asked to put on a show by a report. He laughs, then enters the cage. He sprays balls all over the field - left, right, down the lines, straight-away center. Impressive, but not what you'd call a 'show.' He steps out and notices the reporter walking by, "Oh, I promised you a show. Hold on."

He jumps back in the cage, two pitches later he hits a ball, check that, crushes a ball over the bullpen that lies beyond the outfield fence. Impressive, more so when the reporter realizes he did that to the opposite field, 400 feet! Might have been, might have been more. So anyway, back to the defense.

"He's making real progress. We're just working on him getting more consistent," says Goff. "He's got all the tools, but now it's all about him getting a million reps out there. We're working on footwork, on taking the right angles."

Is he really out there at 9 a.m. every morning as he claims?

Goff laughs, the response of a guy who's been losing sleep because he's had to be out on the field at nine every morning. "Yeah, we're just trying to get him to the point that when a ball is hit in his direction he doesn't have to think, he just reacts."

Go ahead and doubt Michael Morse, you'll just get added to the list of people he's making a point to prove wrong.

"The Mariners have not talked to me at all about moving," Morse said. "They believe in me. I just want to crack the bigs as a shortstop. I'll move whereever they want me to move after that. I'll do anything to help the team. The quicker I get to the majors the quicker I think I'll settle down and be more comfortable. I'm settling in now, and the Mariners have said they've noticed it, noticed me getting more comfortable. That's a good sign for me - I like hearing that they are noticing."

And where might he move after cracking the bigs?

"Well, A-Rod moved to third, that'd be fine."

Morse has the ability, the tools and the drive. He also has the aspirations and the bat. Go ahead, doubt him. That only makes him want it more.

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