Morse closing in on return to Mariners lineup

Morse closing in on return to Mariners lineup

Morse closing in on return to Mariners lineup

SEATTLE -- Michael Morse was scheduled to play nine innings in right field for Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday night in his fourth rehab game, and a decision could come soon on when he'll rejoin the Mariners, according to interim manager Robby Thompson.

Morse hit .222 (2-for-9) with a home run and double in his first three games for Tacoma as he returns from a strained right quadriceps muscle that has sidelined him since June 21.

"I talked to him briefly today and he's champing at the bit," Thompson said. "He says he feels real good."

Thompson didn't rule out Morse returning by this weekend. He's eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list whenever he's ready.

"We'll see how he comes out of this game," Thompson said Thursday afternoon. "If it all goes well, we'll go from there. So hopefully there are no setbacks."

Thompson said Morse is closer to rejoining the team than Franklin Gutierrez, who is also rehabbing in Tacoma in his third Minor League stint as he deals with a recurring hamstring issue.

Thompson acknowledged the Mariners could face a tough roster decision when Morse returns, as there already are five healthy outfielders in Raul Ibanez, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, Endy Chavez and Jason Bay.

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.