Morse hopes to settle in Seattle
Shortstop makes big league dreams come true
If you didn't know better, you'd think the tall, lanky kid playing shortstop for the Mariners was related to Alex Rodriguez, maybe even his twin brother.The batting stance and swing Mike Morse uses is a spitting image of A-Rod. Morse fields a ground ball exactly the same way A-Rod did when he was a shortstop. There are similiarities off the field as well, with both players hailing from Florida. "If I'm going to be compared to someone, being compared to him is pretty good," Morse said. "I have watched a lot of [video] tape of him because we're similar in size. If I can do things the way he does, it's going to make me a better player." Rodriguez was 19 years old when he got his first taste of the Major Leagues, became a big-league star at age 21 and filthy rich at age 25. Morse is none of the above. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Morse -- one inch taller and five pounds lighter than A-Rod -- is a 23-year-old trying to make a name for himself as a Major League shortstop for the second organization he's played for. He's the least-known player acquired in a trade on June 27 last year that sent pitcher Freddy Garcia and catcher Ben Davis to the White Sox for center fielder Jeremy Reed, catcher Miguel Olivo and Morse. Morse ended last season with Triple-A Tacoma and started this season with the Rainiers. The Mariners, badly in need of an offensive boost at shortstop, promoted Morse last Tuesday and he could be in the starting lineup Tuesday night when the Mariners open a three-game Interleague series against the Marlins in Miami. Look for the signs that read, "Welcome home, Michael." "I get to go home and see all my friends and family," he said, smiling. "It will be nice that they can watch me play baseball. My mom [Arlene] hasn't seen me play at all this season and for most of my friends, it has been five years since they [have seen] me play. "It's going to be hectic, but fun," he said of the three-day visit home. "I used to watch the Marlins and went to a lot of their games. I've also met Dontrelle Willis, Juan Pierre, Lenny Harris and a few of the other guys." The only bummer, really, is being limited to the number of tickets he can leave for family and friends. "We are getting taxed on tickets this year so there's only so much I can do," he said. "I'm getting five tickets for every game, but I'm pretty sure the games won't be sold out so there will be quite a few of my friends there." Regardless how many people show up, Morse probably will be calm and cool, just as he was on the night he started his first Major League game on Wednesday night against the Blue Jays. He went 0-for-3 but played flawless defense. "Actually, I felt very relaxed," he said. "I'm not here to be scared every day. I want the manager to be confident putting me in the lineup and being relaxed helps that." After the game, manager Mike Hargrove presented Morse with a copy of the lineup card and the larger lineup that was posted in the clubhouse before the game and on the dugout wall during the game. "I feel I belong," Morse said. "Everyone is so nice and warm to me and it helps a lot that I met just about everyone in Spring Training. It's not like I'm coming in here as a total stranger. "Everything is good. I just want to produce and help us win as many games as we can." The Mariners are 3-1 with Morse in the starting lineup and he's 2-for-11 at the plate, with one walk and one hit by pitch. "He certainly doesn't lack for confidence," Hargrove said, "and he's always asking questions." The highlight of his first week in the Major Leagues was getting his first hit -- an off-the-fist fly ball that fell into shallow right field off Devil Rays right-hander Dave Waechter in the fifth inning on Friday night. "It was an amazing experience, to be standing there on first base and the crowd going crazy," he said. "That is something no one can take from me. I can say I got a hit in the big leagues." He said the hit "looked like a line drive in the boxscore and I'd gladly take 500 more just like it." The night he got his first big-league hit also was the night he made his first big-league error. Morse went to his left, close to second base, fielded a ball hit by Jorge Cantu and made an errant throw to first base. "I don't think he realized who was running and he tired to hurry [the throw]," Mariners infield coach Carlos Garcia said. "You have to know who's running before the ball is hit so you can determine how quick you have to be." In the week he has spent with Morse, Garcia senses that, "He's a very hard worker and willing to listen." "He has good hands, but still needs improvement on his footwork. The more he plays, the more he will be able to make the adjustments. But the kid has a lot of talent." Injured veteran Pokey Reese gave Morse some advice: "I called him over and told him, 'Your arm is too good and strong to do that. Just let it go.'" Reese has gone out of his way to lend a veteran voice to Morse's development. "He's a good kid," Reese said. "We have worked out together in Florida the last two winters and I've told him that if he has any questions, I'll try to answer them." That assurance remains, although Morse is trying to keep the job Reese was supposed to have this season. "I understand that this is a business and he's after my job," Pokey said. "And I hope he gets it." Exactly how long Morse stays with the Mariners this season is questionable. If his offense picks up and his defense is steady, he might be here the remainder of the season. Another possibility is returning to Tacoma when Reese's health enables him to come off the disabled list. Even further down the road, Morse must contend with other promising shortstops in the organization -- Adam Jones, Matt Tuiasosopo and Yuniesky Betancourt. And if the organization selects highly-touted Long Beach State shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the first round of Tuesday's First-Year Player Draft, the competition gets even stronger. "I know there are a lot of good shortstops in the organization and I hope every gets the same opportunity I'm getting here," he said. "I wish the best for everybody. I am not the kind of guy who sits here wishing bad things for anyone. "Everyone should get to experience this."
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.