Michael Morse wasn’t sure how his quad would hold up in an all-out sprint around the bases.
So his first at-bat, his first game since saddled to the disabled list a month ago, Morse sent a line-drive two-run home run toward over the right field wall toward Foss High School.
“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 playing shortstop and just trying to make the big leagues. Now he’s working on getting back to the bigs, starting with helping the Rainiers beat the Tucson Padres 4-2 on Monday in front of 3,125 at Cheney Stadium.
Rainiers manager John Stearns started Morse at designated hitter Monday and had him bat third in the lineup. 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 7-game win streak and the Rainiers (57-46) desperately trying to keep pace with the Salt Lake Bees atop the Pacific Coast League standings.
But after Morse didn’t go to the DL when he fractured his pinky finger in April, then strained his quad in late May and didn’t go to the DL until June 22, he said he plans to take his time in Tacoma, allowing 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 is 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 in the fourth. He then scored from second on Stefen Romero’s single up the middle.
Tacoma starter James Paxton didn’t allow a run until the fifth when Romero’s dive for a blooper to left landed short and got by Abraham Almonte behind him, allowing Jesus Merchan to score from first.
Paxton would pitch six innings, allowing no walks and fanning seven. The hard-throwing, yet inconsistent, left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA his past six starts. He’s struck out 39 his past 38 innings.
He’s 7-7 with a 4.40 ERA for the season
Morse and Montero weren’t the only ones nursing a tender injury. 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 lat muscle.
Morse said he enjoyed being back in a Rainiers uniform and seeing the stadium renovations since then, but he hopes to be back in Seattle ASAP.
When asked about when he expects to be there?
“Probably 7 p.m. tomorrow,” he said.
“… No, probably not actually. I don’t really know. I’m hoping it’s soon.”
With the way the M’s are rolling, they probably hope so, too.
Paxton extended his streak of scoreless innings against the Padres to 14 innings 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 the Rainiers against Tucson’s Jason Lane (0-0, 0.00 ERA) at 11:35 a.m. Tuesday at Cheney Stadium. Game will broadcast on 850-AM.