Morales ready to give boost to Mariners offense

Kendrys Morales is ready for a fresh start.

In 2009, he batted .306 with 34 home runs and 108 RBIs. Five

years after his arrival to the U.S. from Cuba via the Dominican

Republic, Morales was thriving.

By May 29, 2010, he was one of the top hitters for the Los

Angeles Angels in just his second full year in the majors.

That day in May, Morales hit a game-winning grand slam to beat

the Mariners in the 10th inning at Angels Stadium.

He jogged around the bases toward a celebrating crowd of

teammates and jumped on home plate, landing awkwardly and breaking

his leg.

That ended Morales’ season and forced him to miss all of 2011 as

well. Morales returned to the Angels in 2012 and batted .273 with

22 home runs and 73 RBIs.

Then on Dec. 19, he was traded to Seattle for pitcher Jason

Vargas.

Morales was asked if it was strange to join the team he got hurt

playing against.

”No, they gave me an opportunity,” he said. ”They’ve received

me really well. I just want to do what I was doing before I got

hurt.”

After two-plus years of rehabilitation, the ankle feels better

and stronger, Morales said.

He took part in running drills after batting practice Saturday

during the Mariners’ first full workout of spring training and

didn’t appear to be affected. He also took ground balls at first

base though he figures to be the regular designated hitter.

”It was hard and rehab took a long time and was a tough task,

but I’ve got my ability to run back,” he said. ”Compared to last

year at this time, I feel 100 percent. My ankle is able to take

anything I do on the field.

”It’s a radical change because I couldn’t do things and run at

100 percent or anything. I couldn’t exercise with much

strength.”

Morales’ job will be to hit in the middle of the Mariners

lineup. To help provide a boost to an offense that was last in the

American League in runs scored, hits and team batting average in

2012.

He hopes to thrive in spacious Safeco Field, where he can hit

balls to all fields. He said he likes how open the stadium is for

hitters.

”They moved in the fence and we have a lot of guys with a lot

of power here, so that’s better for us,” Morales said.

One of the first things he noticed when arriving to spring

training was the number of young players in the clubhouse.

”There’s good energy because there are so many young guys,”

Morales said. ”You’ve seen teams with a lot of youth play with

more passion and energy, and with that we can play faster.”

Morales knows a few of the other Mariners well. He appeared in a

video game commercial with pitcher Felix Hernandez in 2009 and said

he feels Hernandez is the best pitcher in the majors.

There is also starting pitcher Joe Saunders, a former teammate

of Morales with the Angels. Saunders said he expects to see the

Morales of a few years ago.

”A lot of home runs, a lot of doubles, probably no triples and

a lot of RBIs,” Saunders said. ”I’m sure that’s what he expects

out of himself. I just remember him having some really good power

to both parts of the field. I started the game when he got hurt, so

it’s kind of surreal that now we’re both on this team.”

Saunders said the Angels missed Morales after the injury.

”It was a shame to see it, because he was on fire before he got

hurt. I think he can come up here and provide a really good punch

to this lineup for sure.”

Manager Eric Wedge said Morales can be effective because he’s a

switch hitter with power who is a run producer and is comfortable

being in the middle of the lineup.

”He has a lot of experience and he’s somebody that we’re

counting on being in the middle of our lineup,” Wedge said. ”It’s

a good time for him, it’s a good spot for him.”

Notes: All players except catcher Ronny Paulino were present for

the first full-team workout Saturday. Paulino is in the Dominican

Republic sorting out visa issues. … A packed and noisy clubhouse

got even louder when new outfielder Michael Morse took over the

stereo and cranked up dance music before the workout, something new

at spring training this year. … The Mariners announced Saturday

that they’ve agreed to one-year contracts with LHP Bobby

LaFromboise and INF Carlos Triunfel, who are both at spring

training.