Morales’ 100th HR more than a stat

Staff writerSeptember 13, 2013 

Astros Mariners Baseball

Seattle Mariners' Kendrys Morales is congratulated on his home run against the Houston Astros in the fourth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

ELAINE THOMPSON — AP

There was little fanfare when Kendrys Morales hit his 100th career home run Wednesday night at Safeco Field.

It didn’t help that it was the only run the Mariners would score in a 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros. It really didn’t help that the Mariners were in the process of being swept at home with about 9,000 people in the stands.

But the milestone means something to Morales aside from the statistical accomplishment.

After missing almost two full seasons to a gruesome lower leg fracture in 2009, the 100th homer is an accomplishment. He knew his promising career could have ended with that unfortunate home plate walk-off celebration.

“It inspired me to play hard and to do my best and keep playing that way after dealing with so many obstacles in my life,” Morales said through translator and bullpen coach Jaime Navarro.

There is no real significance in reaching 100 home runs to Morales, though Mariners staffers were able to get him the ball.

“I haven’t thought about it,” he said. “It’s just a number. Now I have to go for 200 and then 300 and keep going.”

Whether he does that in a Mariners uniform is uncertain. Morales will be a free agent after this season. Seattle has initiated preliminary talks with his agent, Scott Boras, about a possible extension. However, Boras has said to a few national news outlets that he believes Morales can get better money on the open market. The Mariners can still give Morales a qualifying offer of one year at approximately $14 million for next season. Morales can accept that or opt for free agency. If he opts out, whatever team signs him will have to forfeit their 2014 first-round draft pick to the Mariners.

Morales isn’t too concerned about the contract stuff with a month left in the season. He just wants to play.

“I’ve had good numbers from the beginning this year and I just want to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” he said. “After the season, I’ll think about what comes next. But for now, I’m just working to finish strong and do the things I need to do.”

The numbers are solid. He’s hitting .280 with 31 doubles, 21 homers and 76 RBI while batting in the middle of the Seattle order.

“From the beginning, I’ve felt comfortable,” he said. “It was a good opportunity coming to Seattle, and as soon as I got here I knew they’d give me that chance. I just keep playing hard, just doing my thing. I feel comfortable and like what they’re doing here. I’m just going to keep doing whatever it takes to help this ballclub.”

FELIX FEELS FINE

Felix Hernandez is moving closer to pitching again for the Mariners. The Seattle ace has been sidelined since Sept. 2 with a mild oblique strain. On Friday, he had a flat-ground throwing session before the game against St. Louis.

According to the Mariners, Hernandez felt good. Because everything went well, he’s scheduled to throw a bullpen session Monday in Detroit. If that goes well, he would likely start Wednesday or Thursday against the Tigers.

TAKING HIS HACKS

Hisashi Iwakuma’s first at-bat in major league baseball came in the second inning Friday night. He struck out on four pitches with a few efforts that would never be confused with Ken Griffey Jr.’s near-flawless swing.

In his second season, Iwakuma had never started a road interleague game so he was never forced to bat.

Even manager Eric Wedge was a little curious about how Iwakuma would do at the plate.

“It’s always interesting when American League pitchers have to bat, but it should be more with Kuma,” a chuckling Wedge said.

Hitting isn’t totally foreign to Iwakuma. Much like major league baseball, the Nippon Professional League in Japan has two divisions – The Pacific Division, which uses the DH, and the Central Division, where the pitchers hit. Iwakuma played for the Rakuten Eagles in the Pacific Division. But during interleague play, he got 24 plate appearances. He had one hit and struck out 15 times.

ON TAP

It will be a battle of hard-throwing rookies at 4:15 p.m. Left-hander James Paxton (1-0, 1.50 ERA) will make his second big league start for the Mariners. The Cardinals will go with right-hander Michael Wacha (3-0, 2.72) making his seventh major league start. The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.

ryan.divish@thenewstribune.com

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