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Morel not thinking about back this spring

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ask Brent Morel about how his back felt the day after getting into live game action on Saturday, and he'll present the same answer featured since the start of Spring Training.

"It doesn't even cross my mind when I'm playing now," said the supremely confident Morel, who tested the back again Sunday by coming off the bench and pinch-hitting for designated hitter Jeff Keppinger in the eighth. "It crosses my mind in the morning, because it's my routine to get loose and stuff. But when I'm out there, I don't even think about it."

When asked how this thought process changed for Morel from last year, when the 25-year-old was limited to 34 games by the injury, he smiled and admitted it was a major change.

"That's the only thing I was thinking about," Morel said. "Right now, no limitations at all. I've been feeling good defensively and the swing feels good. It's a matter of time, progressing innings."

Morel told at the end of November that his back felt as good as it had in a year, and he has backed up that claim during the first couple of weeks of Spring Training. Yet, a healthy and productive Morel still could begin the season at Triple-A Charlotte.

With the Friday addition of Conor Gillaspie, who started at third Sunday and made a nice play on a sharp grounder hit by Alex Castellanos with runners on second and third and one out in the fourth, and Keppinger penciled in as the starter at the hot corner, there appears to be a three-way battle between Morel, Gillaspie and outfielder Jordan Danks for the final roster spot. Morel is fighting somewhat of an uphill battle, with Gillaspie out of options and providing a much-needed left-handed bat.

It's also unlikely Morel could supplant Rule 5 Draft acquisition Angel Sanchez, who serves as the team's backup shortstop. But Morel fought hard to return from the back problem, so he isn't going to let a roster conundrum bother him.

"They are doing their job to get the best available guys out there to make the 25-man roster as good as it can be," Morel said. "It's good for all of us, a little competition. It drives you that much harder, and they are going to take the best guy, whoever it is. It's going to be a fair competition that we are all prepared for."