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Mike Morse wants to make it, anywhere

In 2001, about a year after the Chicago White Sox drafted him as a shortstop in the third round, Mike Morse met Alex Rodriguez in Florida. Morse stands 6-5, the kind of frame that turns shortstops into something else. Rodriguez told him, "Don't ever let them tell you you can't play short because of your size."

Morse made it his goal to not just make the major leagues, but to make it there as a shortstop. In 2004, Morse was still a minor leaguer when the White Sox traded him to the Seattle Mariners in a trade that sent Freddy Garcia to Chicago. The next year, Morse made it to the Mariners. He was still a shortstop.

Five years later, Morse has a new perspective on his position. "The spot that I like most," he said, "is the spot where I'm in the lineup." This spring, Morse is playing almost everywhere on the field except shortstop in trying to make a major league Opening Day roster for the first time.

"It comes down to cracking that lineup," Morse said. "The more valuable I can be, the most ways I can get in a game as possible, I'll do it."

Morse, who turns 28 later this month, believes he can still be a shortstop, but for now he's shelved it. In camp so far, he has played right field, left field, third base, first base and even catcher, just in case his ability as an emergency option makes him more versatile. He found the biggest difference is the quantity of practice he receives at each spot, so he tries to inject more quality into the reps.

Morse started playing multiple positions in Seattle. The Mariners had acquired shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt out of Cuba, and they wanted Morse to receive enough at-bats after his call-up. He played left field a few times, and that led to right field, and that led to first base, and that led to third base. Morse was no longer a shortstop.

Last June, the Mariners traded Morse to the Nationals for Ryan Langehans. His goal now is to get 500 at-bats in a major league season any way he can. He looks to Chone Figgins as a model for someone who can play every day without a regular position. That probably won't happen this season, but Morse is a strong candidate to earn one of the last bench spots.

"At this point in my career, whatever gets me a spot in the lineup," Morse said. "Whatever gets me a spot on the team."

By Adam Kilgore  |  March 3, 2010; 2:11 PM ET
 
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Comments

Funny that ARod tells him that size does not matter when it comesa to playing SS, when in fact that guy is way to big to play SS and he plays a questionable 3B and he's only 6'3".

It was always pretty unrealistic to think the guy could play SS in MLB at 6'5". Cal, who when he played a strong SS back in the day, was 190 pounds (not Morse's 230) and was the tallest every day SS pretty much ever at 6'4". I am pretty sure tha no one in the game currently playing SS is even 6'4". Morse's body says 3B, 1B or OF.

And in order to play any of those postions, the guy has to rake, and Morse has never hit exceptionally well. Maybe he should work really hard at that ctacher position, but then again 6'5" is even a little tall for that position.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 3, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Morse is the type of role player you want. Positive attitude and great around the clubhouse, and when he is called upon he performs in the spot. Mike was effective as a pinch hitter showing flashes of power and was solid in defense wherever he was put.

This team needs a guy who can play 3rd when Zim needs a day off and 1st when ADunn needs a day off and come in late in a game as a PH or take over 1st base. Morse is the man for that spot!

Posted by: dmacman88 | March 3, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Mark Bellanger was fairly tall but he was also very light thus the nickname "the blade". I guess its kind of like surfing ... the less you weigh the better you are in the field. I'm not sure it has to do with height?

Posted by: periculum | March 3, 2010 3:00 PM | Report abuse

It makes me laugh to say 6-5 is too big for a shortstop but not too big for a catcher. He sounds like an interesting player who, along with Harris, would give us two very versitile guys on the bench.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | March 3, 2010 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Why is 6'5" "too big" to be a shortstop?

Posted by: comish4lif | March 3, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

belanger: Height: 6' 1", Weight: 170 lb

not really that tall. maybe back in the 60s/70s he may have been tall for a MI, but compared to today's athletes, not really that tall.

Posted by: sec231 | March 3, 2010 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Cant be worse then Guz, right? I like Morse to make the team anyways. We can always use another guy on the team like Willie that can literally play anywhere, his power doesn't hurt either. He was impressive at the end of last year and seems to have a great attitude.

Posted by: Stu27 | March 3, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Who says A-Rod could not play adeqaute defense at SS? he played it well in Texas.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 3, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

It almost seems that the team is conceding Bruntlett the back up MI spot. Can Bruntlett contribute that much more than a PR / Backup CF like Taveras / Owens / Maxwell / Bernandina? You'd think they would want to see if they could get by for a game or two with Morse, which would allow them to keep Duncan and a CF as backups.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | March 3, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

150 years of Major League Baseball says 6'5" is too tall to play SS. Not sure anyone who has played the position regularly has been that tall.

And since the demise of the steroid era, the trend is back to the norm -- guys from about 5'9" to 6' and 200 lbs or less. Agility, quickness, great footwork: hard to get that stuff from Morse's 6'5" 230 pound package. In short, he aint ever gonna play Short for long.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 3, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

6'5" is too tall - the defense sounds like because "that's the way it's always been" - without any analysis as to why that's tyhe case. I've played baseball my whole life and played all over the field - however I am far from 6'5". But other than that's the way that it is, I cannot come up with anything solid or fundamental about why height would be an issue....

Posted by: comish4lif | March 3, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

This highlights what is likely the 2010 Nats weakest area, the bench.
The rotation is not set, but there's enough options that it's easy to have hope and optimism.
The bullpen is pretty well set.
The starting 8 is pretty well set.
But the bench is going to be pretty weak no matter what.
Willie Harris, Wil Nieves, Mike Morse seem very likely.
Then Ian Desmond or Alberto Gonzalez or maybe Bruntlett.
Plus Bernadina or Maxwell or maybe Duncan or Taveras.
Any way you cut it, it's not very good.

Posted by: Sunderland | March 3, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

At 6'5" & 235 lb.s, I played catcher for 10 years... my height was never an issue. In fact, very few folks attempted to plow into me at the dish! Still, I think his best position would be first. Longer carrer and better chance to work on the average.

Posted by: Brumm | March 3, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

Brumm: 6'5" would have made you among the biggest catchers in history had you been in MLB. You, Sandy Alomar and Joe Mauer (good company!), maybe a couple of others but no show stoppers. Pretty much everybody else would be smaller. (Yogi Bera was 5'7"!) When very few if any guys of your size play a position in a game as old and widely play as baseball, there's a reason.

Morse's problem is that he does not hit nearly enough to get on the field.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 3, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang...Wow, so many posts it's hard to get a good long thread-especially with Mark in the mix. Not complaining, mind you...plus I hear ole Tommy Love is now posting for WTEM.So....one small question to those of you more saberminded than me-I recall ARod as being a top echelon s.s.-it was viewed as a "sacrifice" on his part to give it up. Now, I'm no fan of his but I'm also not a hater-and watching him play it (and hazily remembering the "experts" appraisal) I remember him as being highly regarded. 'Course, won't be the first time if I'm wrong-or "misremembering", as I recall Clemens testifying about his pal Andy......
Any experts out there with knowledge to share?....wait a minute, of COURSE there are-this is the JOURNAL-and the gangs all here!(Seriously-you all are terrific)!!! And of COURSE -
GO NATS!!!

Posted by: zendo | March 3, 2010 5:13 PM | Report abuse

A-Rod was considered a very good fielding SS and he won the Gold Glove at least once, I think. But he's 6'3" and was an athlete to the level of No.1 all around pick -- he was no Mike Morse. And as he gained more and more weight -- I wonder how THAT happened! -- the shift to 3B (as it was with Cal, and long overdue for Ripken when it finally happened) was inevitable. And at 3B he has not been a gifted fielder.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 3, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

What the Nats need is a .300/100rbi hitter, all the stuff about position is just noise. If he can hit, a place can be found for him to play every day. That said, sounds like an outfield or 1st base.

Posted by: broth3 | March 3, 2010 5:30 PM | Report abuse

How does his range compare to that of Guzman?

Posted by: jbartelloni | March 3, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I love Morse's attitude and hope he makes the team, unless Duncan really beats the crap out of the ball this spring. He really seems to have the potential to be a productive pinch hitter and sub. I guess we need one decent defender on the roster as a sub for the middle infielders (Bruntlett or Gonzalez I guess) but beyond that, I hope we load up on bats for the bench. Sending up a pinch hitter who resides under the Mendoza line is a drag.

Posted by: Section222 | March 3, 2010 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Cal Ripken is 6'4". Pretty good SS.

Posted by: cal493 | March 3, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

Bill Cosby says that as a child he sat before the television, shouting: "Tonto, don't go to town!"

There are certain things you can count on in life. For instance, if Scotty, Spock and Yeoman Stevens beam down, you know Stevens has seen his last of the Enterprise.

To wit: Daniel Cabrera is in Chisox camp.

His line from Tuesday's game: 1 inning pitched; 3 hits; 3 walks; 4 runs.

Posted by: Drew8 | March 3, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Banks is listed as having played at 6-1, 180, but I think the 180 must be a little low.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | March 3, 2010 7:26 PM | Report abuse

FYI, from DCRTV.com:

"106.7 Picks Up Caps - 3/3 - The Washington Capitals will be heard on CBS Radio's WJFK, 106.7 The Fan, starting with Saturday's game, for the rest of the season. The team's flagship has been Bonneville's WFED, available on AMers 1500 and 820....."

So the Caps gave Bonneville's weak/highly-directional signals the boot - time for the Nats to do the same!

Posted by: thepostischeap | March 3, 2010 7:31 PM | Report abuse

thepostischeap: Amen!!

Posted by: dfh21 | March 3, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang....yeh, dfh-ARod ain't no Brooksie at 3rd-or even Pedro Feliz......
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | March 3, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Hey Gang....yeh, dfh-ARod ain't no Brooksie at 3rd-or even Pedro Feliz......
Go Nats!!!!

Posted by: zendo | March 3, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Zendo: It goes to show that it takes a lot more than good defense to win as A-Rod has little chance to make the play unless the ball is hit directly at him and Jeter, though sure handed, also has poor range (dare I say that he's a little big for the position?). Tex, according to the sabermetric crap, had a lousy year in 2009 with the glove. Damon throws like me. Speaking of me, I'd have a decent chance running on Posada. Yet the Yanks were big winners. I guess monster pitching and hitting can win you the game for you too.

Posted by: dfh21 | March 3, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

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