Vastly improved Morse returns to Seattle

Vastly improved Morse returns to Seattle

SEATTLE -- Michael Morse returned to Safeco Field on Monday for the first time as a Mariner since Seattle traded him to the Nationals in 2009. He comes back a different player, having hit more home runs (5) in his first week with the Mariners than he hit in his first four seasons combined in Seattle (3).

For Morse, the color and pageantry of the home opener meant a little more than normal.

"It goes a little deeper than just the game," said the 6-foot-5, 245-pound left fielder. "When I first got a callup here in 2005, I was a young kid and this was the biggest stadium I'd ever been in. There were a lot of 'oohs' and 'ahhs' coming from me.

"I feel like there's so much history here. I was turning double plays at second with Bret Boone, that's one of the greatest memories I've got. Besides all that, I get to come back here and now I have a role, a bigger part, and I get to try to help this team become a championship ballclub."

Morse was tied with Atlanta's Justin Upton for the Major League lead in home runs after the first week, so you'd figure he'd be more interested than anyone in Safeco Field's shorter outfield dimensions. He does recall hitting a ball against the Yankees' CC Sabathia in his first tenure in Seattle that clanked off the yellow line on the center-field fence.

"I swear that was the hardest ball I'd ever hit," he said with a smile. "I remember it stayed in, yeah."

But the big man has hit some bombs this year, including a 446-foot blast to dead center in Oakland, and the size of the park shouldn't matter if he gets hold of a pitch. Morse hit his fifth long ball in Sunday's 4-3 loss to the White Sox, but was more concerned about the four strikeouts that followed.

That is why he said he wasn't concerned about testing the new fences in batting practice on Monday.

"I'm not worried about that kind of stuff," said Morse. "But I'll try to hit some ground balls up the middle. Those score runs."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.