SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — After pulling up film of his previous at-bats, Michael Morse sunk into a clubhouse chair to watch the top of the seventh inning of a game against Puerto Rico. As he looked up at the TV, Morse smiled and shook his head.
“You know what’s ironic?” he said. “I always have great springs. I think I have like 100 career RBI in spring training.”
It was actually 103 at the time, with 32 homers and a .326 average. But Morse entered Wednesday’s exhibition game with .214 average, and no home runs or extra-base hits in his bid to go from non-roster invitee to the Opening Day roster. It was pointed out to him that this is the one spring where he actually needs to put up huge numbers, and he nodded as he got up for the bottom of the inning.
“Let me go hit a homer,” he said, laughing.
Five minutes later, Morse finally got on the board. He went deep to left-center, bringing his good friend Hunter Pence trotting in from third. When Morse walked back into the clubhouse, he raised his arms.
“I didn’t miss!” he yelled. “It was like, ‘Yes, he’s going to score. Oh, I am, too!’”
Nobody is having more fun than Morse this spring, even with the slow start. He came to camp wearing cheap cleats he had ordered because his equipment deal ran out when he stopped playing last season. He wore high socks with four stripes on them Wednesday, a nod to Pence. He said they made him feel faster.
For days before Wednesday’s game, Morse insisted his swing felt locked-in. He just wasn’t seeing results.
“I feel great and I wouldn’t be here trying to make the team if I didn’t,” he said. “That’s how much respect I have here for these guys.”
Morse is part of a crowded pack of non-roster invitees trying to make an impact. Chris Marrero has four homers, but for the most part, it’s been a quiet spring for Giants bats. Morse said that’s led to an interesting dynamic for the veterans. He found himself in the video room with Aaron Hill before that homer, and they marveled at the fact that they are treating every at-bat like it’s the middle of the season. There’s a lot at stake.
“A lot of us are in the same situation,” he said. “It’s a new situation for pretty much all of us. We’re fighting every day for a chance to break camp with these guys. I have a new appreciation for the guys who come in this way every year. At the same time, you try to have fun. It’s baseball. Anything can happen.”
Morse showed that in 2014 when he returned from a significant oblique injury to help the Giants win the World Series. Giants officials hope he can have a similar impact off the bench this season, and they've given no hint one direction or the other on where Morse stands. All involved said not to read too much into the fact that Morse hasn't played left field in a game yet.
"It's challenging because we've got two guys out there battling for a spot with (Mac) Williamson and (Jarrett) Parker, but it'd be nice to get him out there," manager Bruce Bochy said.
Morse takes fly balls in the outfield every morning and he said the Giants should know what he can do out there. He is realistic, pointing out that "I'm not a burner, I'm not super-fast out there." He is still powerful, and he hopes to keep showing it. Bochy said Morse's batting practice session Wednesday morning was his best of the spring, but if that doesn't keep translating into games, Morse won't feel a burden. He is playing pressure-free no matter what.
"I wish I could have played my whole career like this," he said. "At the end of the day, it's a win-win. They could come up to me at the end of this and say there's no room, and you know what, I'd say 'I'm happy for you guys.'
"For me, there's no pressure. I'm having fun."