Morse relishes return to Mariners

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Among the 24 position players who officially reported to Mariners camp on Friday, none had a bigger smile than outfielder Michael Morse, who returned to the club's Spring Training complex for the first time since 2009.

The 31-year-old was acquired from the Nationals in a trade last month, and was so eager to get to work he checked in at 8 a.m., not aware that physical exams weren't scheduled until the afternoon.

Morse got in some early hitting Thursday afternoon when he first arrived, and will be on the field Saturday morning with the rest of his teammates for the first full-squad workout.

"It's pretty cool being back here," Morse said, stashing equipment into his locker in the same clubhouse he shared while coming up with the Mariners as a young prospect. "It was funny yesterday in the cage, me and Raul [Ibanez] were hitting and I told him, 'Man, I feel like you and me are early right now to camp and we're still waiting on Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson and Jose Lopez to get here.'

"But it's really cool. Not a lot of guys get a chance to go back to the team where they started, especially to come back and help this organization get back on top. I definitely feel it's a privilege and a blessing to be here. I feel comfortable here. This is where it all started for me. I didn't get a real good opportunity before, but now I'm just going to relax and have fun.

"That's what I do is have fun. When you're winning, you're having fun."

One change for Morse: When he played in Seattle, he always was known as Mike. But after getting traded to the Nationals, he switched his first name to Michael and that's the preferred moniker now.

"I've always been called Michael," he said. "My name's Michael. But when I was drafted here, they started calling me Mike. When I left, I figured it was time to start a new page. Michael, let's see how that works.

"I don't really care. It's not that big a deal to me. But it does sound better when they announce my name 'Michaaaaeeeeeel Morse' instead of 'Mike Morse,'" he said with a laugh. "Those are the very important things."