Morales admires Blue Jays' 'intensity on field'

Slugger hoping for smooth transition into Toronto's lineup

February 19th, 2017

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- When hit free agency this past November, there was never a doubt in his mind where he wanted to go.

Following the conclusion of a torrid second season in Kansas City -- in which the designated hitter/first baseman became the first Royals player since 2000 to hit 30 home runs -- Morales and his agent met with Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins to discuss Morales joining Toronto.

In no time, the 33-year-old Morales was being officially announced as a member of the Blue Jays on a three-year, $33 million deal later that month.

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"When I played against the Blue Jays, I liked the way the guys played and they pushed each other," Morales said through an interpreter on Sunday. "For me, every time I played, I liked that kind of intensity on the field. So for me, it was an easy choice."

Morales hopes things go just as smoothly on the field this season.

With the departure of three-time All-Star to Cleveland, the Blue Jays expect Morales to fill his void in the lineup without much of a dip in offensive production.

In addition to an uptick in power in 2016 -- Morales hadn't hit more than 23 homers since slugging a career-high 34 with the Angels in 2009 -- he also batted .263 with a .327 on-base percentage and 93 RBIs.

The opportunity to play regularly in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Rogers Centre is a plus, too.

"I think my production is going to be a little bit better," Morales said. "Every time I play on that field, I know it's a hitter's field, so I think my production is going to be a little bit high."

Count third baseman Josh Donaldson as one teammate who is looking forward to seeing what the switch-hitting slugger can do, especially in a competitive American League East, where the defending division champion Red Sox bolstered their rotation with the acquisition of lefty Chris Sale.

"He's a very professional hitter," Donaldson said. "For us, I think he adds that extra dynamic with being a switch hitter, to where now, we're not as right-handed heavy. … I like what he's going to bring to our team."

Though Morales will be primarily stationed at DH, the 10-year veteran acknowledged he is open to playing the field, if needed, and worked throughout the offseason to prepare himself if the situation arises.

In the meantime, however, Morales looks forward to getting comfortable with his new teammates and surroundings during Spring Training.

"I feel pretty good," he said. "I know there are some young kids here and a lot of veterans. I've got to just stay in shape and, hopefully, everything is going to go well for us this year."