Notes: Morse preparing for outfield

Notes: Morse preparing for outfield

SEATTLE -- Rookie shortstop Mike Morse played the position he knows best in Monday night's series opener against the Royals, but he soon could be stationed in left field.

"If we decide to go through with this, and it's not a foregone conclusion, it probably will be another five or six days, minimum, before we put him out there (in a game)," Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said.

Morse's potential transformation started Sunday morning and continued Monday afternoon.

"It's a crash course," is the way coach Mike Goff described it. "He's never been out there, so we're starting out with the basic fundamentals. He's picking things up quickly, but still has a long way to go."

With slick fielding Yunieksy Betancourt regarded as the organization's probable everyday shortstop for the remainder of this season and possibly beyond, Morse must learn a new position. He has good size at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, good speed and a strong arm, which makes him a viable outfield candidate.

"Morse isn't going to start at shortstop ahead of Betancourt," Hargrove said. "Betancourt's going to play."

The Cuban refugee has committed just one error in his first 15 big league games while Morse has 11 errors this season.

"I've never played a game in the outfield at the professional level," Morse said. "But the more fly balls you see, the more comfortable you get out there. It feels pretty good out there, actually, not weird at all. I just have to learn the basics and get the fundamentals down."

Goff and Morse started working out at 1:45 p.m. PT Monday afternoon, spending about 20 minutes on "drop steps" while moving in position to catch baseballs hit over his left and right shoulder. Morse spent another 20 minutes catching routine fly balls and he also spent some pregame batting practice in the outfield learning how to "read" the ball off the bat.

"The footwork for infielders and outfielders is somewhat similar," Goff said, "but there also some noticeable differences. As an outfielder, the first couple of steps are the most important, especially on balls hit right at you.

"The toughest play he'll get is a sinking line drive. That's why he's going out there every day in batting practice. I can hit him fungos all day long and it won't be the same (as a game situation).

"I would say the biggest fear is going back to the wall for a ball."

Another adjustment Morse has to make is throwing the ball overhand, rather than sidearm or three-quarters. An infielder's hands usually are low when he is separating the ball from his glove, compared to an outfielder having his hands held high when catching a routine fly ball.

"We're trying to get him 'playable' out there in a short period of time," Goff said. "We're hopeful he'll be ready (to play in a game) in about a week."

With veteran left fielder Randy Winn gone via trade to the Giants, and Chris Snelling suffering a season-ending knee injury, the Mariners offense needs a boost and Morse could provide it. He is batting .300 with two home runs and 19 RBIs in 170 at-bats.

Coming and going: The traffic into and out of the clubhouse was busy again as outfielder Jamal Strong rejoined the team and catchers Wiki Gonzalez and Miguel Ojeda traded places. Strong and Ojeda were promoted from Triple-A Tacoma while Gonzalez returned to the Rainiers -- the 27th and 28th transactions in the past 20 days.

"We don't have a No. 1 catcher here and although (Yorvit) Torrealba and Gonzalez have been playing well and doing their jobs, we felt like we wanted to see what Ojeda can do," Hargrove said. "In order to do that, this was the move we chose to make.

"It's a bummer for Wiki, but it doesn't mean we don't like him or he can't play here. It's just that our catching situation is such that we feel we have to look at this kid, too."

Ojeda, acquired from the Padres on July 30, batted .333 (11-for-33) with three home runs and 11 RBIs in nine games with Tacoma.

Gonzalez was 12-for-45 in two stints with the Mariners and was the catcher in both of Felix Hernandez's Major League starts.

The teenager started Monday night's game, but Hargrove said Torrealba would have been the starting catcher even if Wiki hadn't been demoted.

"The last thing I want is for Felix, or any of our pitchers, to think the only way to be successful is throwing to catcher 'A'," Hargrove said. "Whoever is catching will get the most out of Felix."

Strong, 26, is making his second stint with the Mariners this season.  He was previously with the team from July 31-August 5, appearing in two games as a pinch-runner.  Strong has spent most of the season with Tacoma, hitting .291 (111-for-382) with 16 doubles, five triples, four home runs, 21 stolen bases and 36 RBIs in 93 games. He reached base safely in 52 consecutive games, from May 22-July 21.

Not easy saying goodbye: Hargrove has had the unenviable task of informing players that they are being sent back to the Minors or are being released. "It takes a little something out you because it's no fun telling people they are being sent out," Hargrove said. "But it's part of the game, just as much as getting a base hit."

A Royal welcome: The Mariners and Royals met for the seventh time this season Monday night, but it was the first game at Safeco Field. The White Sox are now the only AL team that hasn't played a game in Seattle this season. The Central Division leaders are at Safeco Field August 26-28.

On deck: The three-game series continues Tuesday night with Mariners right-hander Joel Pineiro (4-7, 5.69 ERA) facing the Royals and right-hander Zack Greinke (3-14, 6.09 ERA).

Jim Street is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.