Wedge gets first feel of power at his fingertips

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.comFebruary 23, 2013 

PEORIA, Ariz. — It was one lineup in the first spring training game, but the way it spread out was telling.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge was finally able to scribble the names of two veteran hitters not far removed from power numbers the Mariners haven’t seen in years into third and fourth in the batting order.

Newly acquired Kendrys Morales, received in trade from the Angels for Jason Vargas, and Michael Morse, from the Nationals in a three-team trade in which the Mariners sent John Jaso to Oakland, hit third and fourth, respectively, Friday.

It was a quiet day for the duo in a 9-3 loss to the San Diego Padres. Morse hit a soft line drive to center to go 1-for-3, and Morales was 0-for-2, almost picking up a hit down the first-base line.

But, they bring in the following 162-game averages for their career: Morales .281 average, 28 home runs, 93 RBI. Morse,

.295, 23, 82. It’s a distinct difference for Seattle.

Kyle Seager led the power-poor Mariners last year, and he hit just 20 home runs. He was the only Mariner to reach 20. Two players, Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders, had 19 apiece.

Much of the season, Seager hit third where his average was .250 and his OPS was just .709.

Smoak hit cleanup in 101 at-bats and hit .188, his lowest total among the three spots in the order in which he had more than 100 at-bats.

When the Mariners tried catcher Jesus Montero at cleanup, he had a .622 OPS.

Morse, on the other hand, had an .898 OPS when hitting fourth in 2011, the best year of his career, when he hit .303 with 31 homers and 95 RBI.

Morales and Morse enable Wedge to fill in the lineup a way he couldn’t previously.

“It allows us to put some of the more inexperienced guys in a place they probably need to be,” Wedge said. “Last year, really out of necessity, we had to put guys in the middle of the lineup that probably weren’t ready to be in the middle of the lineup.

“When you bring in the veteran guys like we have, it allows us to spread it out that much more. We talk about it all the time, being able to have an offense that we can work all the way through, up and down the lineup. We’re just much more equipped to do that this year.”

PADRES HAMMER NOESI

Hector Noesi did not make a good opening statement that he deserves a rotation spot.

He threw 42 pitches and allowed a grand slam, six runs — four earned — and four hits. He walked three. He recorded two outs before Wedge pulled him in the top of the first in Friday’s loss.

Only 22 pitches were strikes.

“He was up a little bit,” Wedge said. “First time out, the ball is coming out of his hand and he just cut it off a little bit as the inning wore on, and when he does you just don’t have the same life.

“He said he felt good. Hopefully, he can work off of that and come back and be a little bit stronger next time.”

The reason two of Noesi’s runs were unearned was because Raul Ibañez had the first fly ball of the year click off his glove in deep left for an error. In Ibañez’s defense, San Diego’s left fielder, Travis Buck, stumbled and fell when making his first catch out in left on a very sunny day in Peoria.

Casper Wells, who is fighting for a spot on the team after the offseason acquisition of multiple outfielders, hit a two-run home run to left field in the ninth. Francisco Martinez doubled in the sixth and eventually the scored Mariners’ other run.

ALL IN WITH A PAIR

The Mariners agreed to one-year deals with relievers Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen, as well as starter Erasmo Ramirez and Montero on Friday. Those signings mean everyone on the Mariners’ 40-man roster is now under contract for the 2013 season.

SHORT HOPS

It was the Peoria Sports Complex’s 20th Anniversary as part of the Cactus League. … The Mariners are 17-22-1 all-time in Cactus League openers. … The first televised spring training game will be March 4 on Root Sports against Colorado.

todd.dybas@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @Todd_Dybas

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