Michael Morse on returning to Giants: 'I know I’m not done'

Michael Morse on returning to Giants: 'I know I’m not done'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Two years and one month after the biggest moment of his career, Michael Morse found himself back among the Giants. Morse, a fan favorite in 2014 and clutch bench bat during that postseason run, returned to San Francisco in November for Hunter Pence’s wedding, and at some point he found himself standing with general manager Bobby Evans.

“I know I’m not done,” said Morse, who received just eight at-bats from the Pirates before being released last April.

“If you want to see if you’re done or not, come to camp,” Evans replied.

Pence’s wedding was a long one, taking place on both sides of the Bay Bridge. Morse didn’t need much time, however, to accept the surprising offer. He ran into Larry Baer later in the wedding and told him he would see him in the spring. Then he saw Pence, one of his close friends.

“He was so excited. He was like, ‘No way!” Morse said. “I said, 'I think we just shook on a little deal here.' If (Evans) is telling me I can come to camp, I’m coming. I’m coming hard. I’m giving everything I have.”

Planning a reunion was easy, but Morse flew back to his Fort Lauderdale home knowing there could be speed bumps. He had briefly talked to the Giants about a comeback last summer, but they signed Chris Denorfia. Morse started doing cardio and kept a close eye on the Giants during the Winter Meetings to make sure his potential role wasn’t filled.

In December, the Giants made the deal official. On Thursday, Morse, slimmed down from his first stint in San Francisco, walked back onto the field at Scottsdale Stadium, a wide smile on his face.

“I want to prove to myself I can still play this game,” he said. 

The history of this organization says Morse will get another shot, that he’ll follow the Ishikawas and Gillaspies and turn his comeback into postseason heroics. Morse knows it’s not that simple, but he also knows that he has put himself in a good position to succeed. He is 34 years old and more than two years removed from a significant big league role, but he feels like a player 10 years younger. The half-year off — spent relaxing with family and trying out life as a TV and radio analyst — was a godsend. 

“I feel good … I feel very athletic this year,” Morse said. “Other years, it was more about strength. This year I feel more mobile and agile. It was very refreshing. I let my body heal, which you wouldn’t believe it, it’s such a nice, refreshing feeling. Everybody’s contract should have one year where you don’t have to play, just to heal your body.”

Morse’s last contract took him away from the Giants. He hit .279 and bashed 16 homers in 2014, returning from a bad oblique injury to hit an NLCS homer off the Cardinals’ Pat Neshek that set up Travis Ishikawa’s walk-off. A two-year, $16 million contract put him with the Marlins. He was traded to the Dodgers for a day in 2015 and then was shipped to Pittsburgh.

This current deal is not guaranteed, as Morse is in camp as a non-roster invitee, fighting for one of the open bench jobs. There’s a chance, Morse admitted, that he looks up two weeks from now and realizes it really is over. There’s a chance that the Giants ask him to continue his comeback in Triple-A, and Morse said he’s not sure what he would do if that’s the case. There’s also a chance that he has a big spring but there’s simply not room in orange and black. Morse said that would make for an easy decision. 

“I’m pretty sure that even if I hit .900 this spring and don’t make the team, I don’t think I’d go anywhere else,” he said. “I’d rather go home than not play for them.”

In a way, Morse has done both. He has played just 142 games for the Giants but considers the clubhouse his baseball home. He’s hoping that none of the other possibilities matter, that he runs with this spring opening and once again joins Pence in the outfield. He’s hoping that the wedding handshake was just the beginning.

“This is an opportunity and the Giants have given me that opportunity,” he said. “It’s not something I’m not going to take seriously. I’m 110 percent in it to help this team, and I told Bobby I don’t want to play anywhere else. I don’t want to play anywhere but for the Giants.”

Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder


Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to get MRI on right shoulder

The Giants almost made it through spring training with no serious injuries.

But as they get set to leave Arizona for the Bay Area, Jeff Samardzija is dealing with a shoulder issue.

On Wednesday, Samardzija pitched in a minor league game. He gave up two homers, hit a batter in the fourth inning and was pulled from the game.

A day later, the Giants announced that Samardzija will undergo an MRI on his right shoulder. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, results of the MRI will be known later Thursday evening.

Samardzija's numbers in official spring training games this year are ugly. In 11 innings, he's 17 hits, 13 earned runs and six home runs.

No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers


No. 79? No. 53? Before they were stars, Giants wore random numbers

SCOTTSDALE — A couple of veterans walked past a clubhouse TV earlier in camp and saw that the Giants and Padres were tied heading into the bottom of the 10th of an exhibition game. The Padres infielders were just standing around, and there was not yet a new pitcher on the mound. 

“It’s that time when No. 99 comes in to pitch,” one of the players joked as he headed home for the day.

A few seconds later, a big left-hander took the mound. He was, in fact, wearing No. 99, and in his inning on the mound he would face a No. 74 (Aramis Garcia) and No. 78 (Steven Duggar). This is the norm for spring training, when dozens of players — including teenagers and journeymen still hanging around the low minors — get into every game. That leads to action between numbers you would never see in a normal game. The Giants had 60 players in camp, plus 10 coaches and staff members with numbers. Throw in their 10 retired numbers and the unofficially retired ones (25, 55, etc.) and, well, there aren’t a whole lot of choices left. 

If Duggar makes the Opening Day roster, he’ll get an upgrade from his lineman’s number. Ditto for Garcia, who could be Buster Posey’s backup as soon as next season. Still, a taste of big league action doesn’t guarantee a normal number in camp, when young players regularly find themselves back at the end of the line. 

Ryder Jones wore 83 in camp last year and 63 in the big leagues. When he showed up this year, with 150 big league at-bats under his belt, he was told that he would have to wait until the end of the spring to upgrade. Players with more service time (think No. 2 Chase d’Arnaud or No. 19 Josh Rutledge) get priority, at least until all the cuts are made. Jones said he has a few numbers in mind for his next stint in the big leagues, but he won’t be picky. 

“Anything under 40 works,” he said, smiling. 

The steady climb toward single digits happens to just about everybody. Long before Brandon Crawford’s became @bcraw35, he wore 79 in his first camp. He moved up to 53 after that and Mike Murphy flipped that to 35 when Crawford became the big league shortstop. Hunter Pence doesn’t remember his first spring training number with the Astros, but he knows it was in the low eighties. Joe Panik wore 66 the first time he spent a spring at Scottsdale Stadium. “I was an offensive lineman,” he joked. Tyler Beede, now on the cusp of his big league debut, got promoted from 63 to 32 when he arrived last spring, only to swap to 38 this year because of some in-season shifting. When Pablo Sandoval arrived last summer, Steven Okert switched from 48 to 32.

Then there are those who have only known one jersey. Posey was a can’t-miss prospect when he arrived and doesn’t remember wearing anything other than 28. Brandon Belt was a top-25 prospect when he came to camp for the first time, and he’s been 9 since that day. Madison Bumgarner wore 40 in his first big league camp because he had already made his big league debut, but somewhere in the team archives, there are probably a few photos of a 19-year-old Bumgarner wearing something else. 

“The previous spring I came up to pitch a few times,” Bumgarner said. “I’m pretty sure I had a different number every time I came over and I’m pretty sure it was always in the eighties.”

There were seven Giants in the eighties this spring. Duggar was one of two top prospects — Chris Shaw inherited Crawford’s old 79 — to come close, and he didn’t mind one bit. He’s not thinking too far ahead, even though he could be a big leaguer in eight days. 

“I’ll take anything if I’m in the big leagues,” he said. “I’ll take No. 112 if that’s what they give me.”