Michael Morse wasn’t sure how his quad would hold up in an all-out sprint around the bases.
So in his first at-bat – in his first game back after being placed on the disabled list a month ago – Morse sent a line-drive, two-run home run over the right-field wall at Cheney Stadium.
“You don’t have to sprint or nothing,” Morse deadpanned. “Just a nice jog around the bases. I’m hoping to do that more.”
Morse last played with the Tacoma Rainiers in 2009, when he was an infielder just trying to make the big leagues. Now he’s an outfielder working on getting back to the majors – starting with helping the Rainiers beat the Tucson Padres, 4-2, on Monday in front of a crowd of 3,125.
Rainiers manager John Stearns started Morse at designated hitter and had him bat third in the order. Morse said he will play right field Tuesday.
“I expected us to be pretty good with him in the three-hole and he delivered,” Stearns said. “I don’t know how long we’ll have him, though. I was thinking I’d call Seattle and see if they can keep him here with us.”
That’s not likely. Even with the Mariners riding a seven-game winning streak and the Rainiers (57-46) desperately trying to keep pace with the Salt Lake Bees atop the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific North division standings.
But after Morse didn’t go to the DL when he fractured his pinkie finger in April, then strained his quad in late May, and didn’t go to the DL with the quad problem until June 22, he said he plans to take his time in Tacoma and allow himself to fully heal.
“That’s why this has taken so long,” Morse said. “But if I wasn’t ready to come back, I wouldn’t be here. That’s our plan this time to make sure I’m 100 percent.”
The Rainiers held that 2-0 lead until Jesus Montero, playing first and making his first home appearance off the DL, doubled down the left-field line and scored on Stefen Romero’s single up the middle in the fourth.
Tacoma starter James Paxton didn’t allow a run until the fifth, when Romero’s dive for a blooper to left failed and got by Abraham Almonte, allowing Jesus Merchan to score from first.
Paxton (7-7) would pitch six innings, allowing no walks and striking out seven. The hard-throwing, yet inconsistent left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA his past six starts. He has struck out 39 his past 38 innings.
Joining Morse and Montero in nursing injuries, Stephen Pryor pitched a scoreless eighth in his second relief appearance in his rehab assignment. He was placed on the DL on April 15 with a torn back muscle.
Morse said he enjoyed being back in a Rainiers uniform and seeing the stadium renovations since 2009, but he hopes to be back in Seattle as soon as possible.
Paxton extended his streak of scoreless innings against the Padres to 14 dating back to his lone career shutout against them July 8. But that ended when he allowed a run in the fifth. Carter Capps hit Ben Francisco in the eighth, his third hit batter his past two appearances.
Andrew Carraway (6-3, 4.32 ERA) starts for Tacoma against Tucson’s Jason Lane (0-0, 0.00) at 11:35 a.m. Tuesday on 850-AM.TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 email@example.com @Cotterill44