Mariners plan to use Morales mostly as DH
PEORIA, Ariz. -- A lot could change in the next six weeks, but Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Saturday that Kendrys Morales will likely spend the majority of his time at designated hitter this season if things go according to plan.
Morales, acquired from the Angels in a trade for Jason Vargas, shared time with Justin Smoak during first-base drills on the first day of full-squad workouts. But Smoak is the better defender and if he can produce at the plate this season, he'll likely get the nod there while the Mariners use the DH spot to get Morales' big bat in the lineup.
"Right now the plan coming in is we see him getting the bulk of his at-bats at DH," Wedge said, "but we want him to get reps at first base because that's an option for him as well."
Morales played 92 games at DH last year for the Angels and 28 at first base as he came back from a fractured ankle that cost him the entire 2011 season. He'd like to play first base, but knows he'll have to show he can do so to get more than just the occasional start.
"I have to be the one to be ready," he said through interpreter Rafael Colon. "There's still time to decide where I'm going to play."
One thing that is certain, the Mariners will find a way to get his bat in the lineup. The Cuban native was one of the American League's emerging power hitters in 2009 with 34 home runs and 108 RBIs, but then saw his career halted by the serious ankle injury midway through the 2010 season when he got hurt leaping into a pile of teammates at home plate after a walk-off grand slam against the Mariners.
"He's a big-league hitter," Wedge said. "He's a run producer who is comfortable being in the middle of the lineup. He has a lot of experience and he's somebody we're counting on to be in the middle of the lineup."
Morales said he's far ahead of last year at this time, when he wasn't even able to participate in early workouts with the Angels. And if he is healthy, the Mariners will have an added offensive weapon.
"I don't think he's playing catch-up anymore," Wedge said. "He had to do that the last couple years. This is a good time for him, a good spot for him. He can come in here and just focus on baseball. Obviously there's always going to be maintenance with him to keep him healthy and available, but we trust he's going to do that and we're going to make sure he does that."