Michael Morse: "Hey Big Dog"

When the M's traded right-hander Freddy Garcia to the Chicago White Sox, the return package included three players. Outfielder Jeremy Reed, catcher Miguel Olivo and a minor league shortstop named Michael Morse. Morse began his first full season with the M's this spring.

PEORIA, Ariz. – What most people will remember about Michael Morse this spring is the one-liner he had when talking to manager Mike Hargrove. What most forget is the one line-drive that got the Mariners attention.

The line, "Hey big dog," was something Morse said to Hargrove in the opening weeks of March, just being friendly as he passed by the Mariners first-year manager in the clubhouse.

Once the media got a hold of Morse's comment, the 6-foot-5 shortstop started to question himself. Was he out of line? Did he violate an unwritten rule? Morse tried to put those thoughts out of his mind, understanding that he had a better grasp of what went on than the media did.

"Hargrove is a great manager and a great guy," said Morse. "Everyone calls him skip and stuff. One day I don't think I really realized what I said. I was just trying to be friendly. He didn't think anything of it. I didn't think anything of it."

What Hargrove cared about more was what he saw out of Morse on the field, or more specifically at the plate, this March. It all started in his first at bat of the spring in the ninth inning against San Diego. With runners on first and third and two outs, Morse stepped up tot he plate against nine-year veteran Danny Patterson. It's an at bat he won't soon forget.

The first pitch went for a strike, 0-1. Second pitch, a ball, 1-1. Third pitch, a slider outside the zone, ball two. Fourth pitch, a line drive home run that sailed foul, 400 feet from home plate, 2-2. Fifth pitch, another screaming line drive in foul territory. Sixth pitch, a fastball off the plate, 3-2. On the seventh pitch, Morse jumped an a Patterson offering and lined a single up the middle to score a run and bring the tying run to the plate.

In that one at bat, Morse proved he belonged.

"It felt really good because it was my first at bat and a lot of the guys look and want to see what this kid is going to do," said Morse. "I had a great at bat, and Hargrove shook my hand. So did Baylor. A lot of the guys came up to me and said, ‘Good at bat.'"

Morse used the positive experience to his advantage, and carried the confidence over to each of the seven other at bats he had this spring. Before being sent to minor league camp, he went 3-8 at the plate.

"I thought spring was really good," said the shortstop. "I made a good impression. I knew I was a long shot to make the Mariners, so my goal was to have a good spring and show them what I could do. I think I achieved that."

An area where he has yet to prove much, at least to the big league coaches, is on defense. Much has been written about how Morse, like Matt Tuiasosopo, would like to get every opportunity possible to remain at shortstop in the future. It's a position that he prides himself in, and one he'd like to prove he can play long-term. This spring, he didn't get that chance. He took infield during morning workouts, but never put on a glove in a game.

That didn't discourage Morse. He's set to begin the season at Triple-A Tacoma, and knows it'll be with the Rainiers where he'll have to prove his abilities. And once the season starts, he'll try to use the valuable advice that Hargrove gave him before he left big league camp.

"Basically, what Hargrove said is that what separates a lot of people from the majors and the minors is consistency," said Morse. "I just want to stay consistent with my offense and my defense. I know what I need to do and I know I can get there."

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