SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – After the most miserable season of his career, Michael Morse is eager for a fresh start.
A popular figure during four seasons with the Washington Nationals, where he grew into a power-hitting outfielder and first baseman, Morse was squeezed out before last season and traded to the Seattle Mariners, with whom he spent four years before being shipped east in 2009.
Already disheartened by the trade, his return wasn’t what he expected. A lackluster 76 games, bogged down by a torn right quadriceps and constant pain in his left wrist, led to another trade to the Baltimore Orioles in late August.
Now, he’s looking to forget all that as he settles in with the San Francisco Giants, with whom he signed a one-year, $6 million deal in December.
“I’m excited to be on a championship ballclub,” Morse said. “You know, turn the page on 2013. I had a little banged up year. I got over all that stuff and now I’m here to help this team win.”
Morse underwent surgery on the wrist in October and was fully healed by mid-December, when he said teams started reaching out to his agent about signing him for the upcoming season. Though he chose not to share the teams he was negotiating with – the Colorado Rockies and Houston Astros were reportedly among those showing interest – he decided to join the Giants.
“My first priority was that I wanted to be on a championship-winning ballclub,” Morse said. “I didn’t want to be on a team that was looking to rebuild or wanted me to come in to help out the young guys. When my agents told me about San Fran, it was a no-brainer for me.”
The Giants expect Morse to start in left field, though where he fits in the lineup won’t likely be determined until the last week of spring training, manager Bruce Bochy said. He’ll trot out different combinations until then; on Wednesday, in a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Scottsdale Stadium, Morse hit fifth, behind third baseman Pablo Sandoval and right fielder Hunter Pence.
“We need some help producing runs, and he’s a run-producing bat,” Bochy said. “I don’t know where he’ll be in the order yet, but he’ll be a good presence. I like the way he’s bounced back from his injury last year, and watching him in BP, he’s showed no effect from the surgery.”
Morse went 1-for-2 with a walk on Wednesday, driving an RBI double into left field in the fifth inning before leaving in the sixth. He had just one hit in nine at-bats during the Giants‘ first four games.
His goal is to feel relaxed by Opening Day, at which point he figures he’ll be fully at ease. He plans on having “Take On Me” by a-ha, his popular walk-up song with the Nationals, played over the loudspeakers at AT&T Park.
“I wanted to play it in Seattle, but it just wasn’t the right fit, and I kind of had to move on from that,” Morse said. “But the way I feel now, I’ve been so humbled from last year that I had to bring it back. It’s comfort, and this team is making me feel very comfortable.”