Morse Getting it Done at Shortstop

"Shortstop" Michael Morse (AP)

TACOMA, Wash. - Doubters Beware! Michael Morse continues to defy expectations with his success as the everyday shortstop for the Tacoma Rainiers. The 6-foot-5 infielder has worked hard to improve defensively, and is contributing solidly to the Rainiers' offense in his first year at the Triple-A level. Find out what's driving this 23-year-old to make the majors at a position that few people believed he could handle.



"Just to be clear, he couldn't play shortstop for your beer league team. You'd hide him in left field and pray to God that the team had a bunch of left-handed pull hitters. Reactions to watching him range to his right vary from ‘I could have gotten that' to ‘a paraplegic hippo makes that play' as the ball bounces into the outfield. Toss in a general malaise in the field, consistent lack of effort, and a reputation as being uncoachable, and improvement just isn't in the cards here." -

USSMariner's David Cameron on Michael Morse @ USSMariner.com - 6/29/04

Michael Morse has heard all this before.

"Everyone said I couldn't play, I was too big, too tall, too this, too that," the 23-year-old shortstop said. "And I'm here in Triple-A so far so I think I'm doing alright."

It's fair to say Michael Morse is doing alright. The 6-foot-5 shortstop is making the most of his opportunity to play every day for the Rainiers. Morse has played in every game for Tacoma this season, his first in AAA. So far, he is hitting .247 with four home runs while adjusting to life in the Pacific Coast League.

"The pitchers here are a lot better, and they challenge you every at-bat," Morse said. "Everyone's more in tune with their game here. It's tough, but I just have to adjust."

Michael Morse started playing shortstop in high school, and even then there were doubts about the tall right-hander's ability to handle the position. As a young player for Nova High School in Davie, Flor., Morse began silencing the doubters.

"It became a mission," the 23-year-old recalled, "I was an outfielder, but I wanted to play shortstop because my favorite players like A-Rod were shortstops."

Morse impressed the White Sox enough that they drafted him with the 82nd pick in the amateur draft. He was playing for Double-A Birmingham when he was traded to the Mariners along with Jeremy Reed and Miguel Olivo. Morse was excited to be part of the organization in which his idol, Alex Rodriguez, was groomed.

"I watch him [Rodriguez] on tape, and try to study him defensively," Morse said. "Lately, offensively, I've watched how he's hitting the ball and his approach at the plate."

Michael would love to see his career follow a similar path, obviously.

"You know, my goal is to play in the big leagues someday," he said. "And I see myself playing shortstop for the Mariners. And I can say, ‘Wow, I'm at the top level playing short and all those people said I couldn't play.'"

"Those people" point to Morse's limited range and quickness for a shortstop. But so far this year Morse has only made four errors, while playing every day for the Rainiers. His strong arm and instincts are his major strengths, but they are strengths that could also work in other positions.

"He's done a really good job for us at short," said Rainiers manager Dan Rohn. "He makes the plays when he has to and isn't making mistakes. I think Mike has better range than most kids his size have displayed in the past I don't know that he'll need to move, but he's a good athlete. He could if need be."

"To me I don't care where I play, as long as my skills aren't diminishing," the former third-round pick said. "If they move me to another position and tell me it's because I can't play short, because I'm not good enough, then that's my fault."

Until he hears those words, however, Michael Morse will continue to focus on the goals he has set himself for this season.

"I just want to play every day," he said. "I want to field good and hit good. I'm not going to look at numbers or anything like that, I just want to be an everyday player. I want my manager to be satisfied with me and hopefully get a call-up."

Morse acknowledges that he has work to do before that can happen.

"I need to get my average back up," he said. "I just need to get good pitches to hit and I can't miss them"

Proving people wrong has become a habit for Morse. He is one step away from his ultimate goal, playing shortstop for a major league team. It remains uncertain that he will be able to reach that goal, but after coming so far, it'd be foolish to bet against him.
Don Jacobson can be reached via e-mail @ JacobsDW@gmail.com

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