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Morales' ambitions grow as he reaches milestone

ST. LOUIS -- Kendrys Morales kept the baseball from the 100th home run of his Major League career in the Mariners' 6-1 loss to the Astros on Wednesday, but the veteran designated hitter hopes there are many more milestones still ahead.

"It's just a number," Morales said Friday through interpreter Jaime Navarro, the Mariners' bullpen coach. "I just have to keep playing and go for 200 and 300 and keep going."

Morales has plenty of motivation to do that, having left Cuba early in his baseball career and then worked his way up through the Angels' system before shattering his ankle while jumping into a home-plate celebration in 2010.

That injury, coming after a breakout 34-home run season in 2009, cost him a year and a half of games just as he was hitting his prime. He returned to bat .273 with 22 homers and 73 RBIs last year for the Angels and is hitting .280 with 21 home runs and 76 RBIs for Seattle with two weeks remaining.

"It inspired me to play hard and do my best and keep playing the same way after so many obstacles in my life, with the ankle and everything else," Morales said.

Morales has been one of the Mariners' positives this season, providing a steady bat in the middle of a young lineup after being acquired in a trade for Jason Vargas over the offseason.

"From the beginning, I've felt comfortable," he said. "It was a good opportunity coming to Seattle and as soon as I got here, I knew they'd give me that chance. I just keep playing hard, just doing my thing. I feel comfortable and like what they're doing here. I'm just going to keep doing whatever it takes to help this ballclub."

As for looking ahead? Morales will be a free agent following the season and the Mariners have made some initial inquiries, but he'll wait to see how things play out.

"I have had good numbers from the beginning this year and I just want to keep doing what I've been doing," he said. "After the season, I'll think about what comes next. But for now, I'm just working to finish strong and do the things I need to do."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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