Maybe June 15, 2014 was when Logan Morrison finally figured it out.
Morrison went 0-for-3 that Sunday, his day ending in the fifth inning after he popped out with runners on first and second and the Mariners trailing the Rangers, 1-0. Livid, Morrison returned to the dugout and smashed his bat against the wall. A piece splintered, came back and cut the hulking first baseman above his left eye.
Blood gushing over his face, Morrison was removed from the game, which the Mariners went on to win 5-1.
In the Safeco Field clubhouse afterward, Morrison was stitched up, swollen and tattered. It looked like he went 15 rounds with Apollo Creed. And lost convincingly. The cut required five stitches. The area where the bat hit him was shades of yellow, black and purple. His batting average was even worse — .135 after his first few months in a Mariners uniform were plagued by injuries.
“Obviously, I acted like a three-year-old,” Morrison said. “I apologized to my teammates. I’m about to go apologize to Mac [manager Lloyd McClendon]. I can’t (be out of control). I didn’t want to come out of the game . . . I’m embarrassed. No matter how bad I’m playing, I can’t do that.”
Following the brush with blindness, Morrison, acquired from the Marlins in an offseason trade for reliever Carter Capps, began to turn it around, albeit slowly.
By the end of June, his average was .235 and was hitting the ball with more authority. He labored in July before putting together a final two months so convincing that the Mariners pegged him as their starting first baseman for the 2015 season despite the fact that injuries have kept the 27-year-old from playing 100 games the past three years.
Over the final two months, Morrison hit .321 with 13 doubles, six home runs, 20 RBIs and an .887 OPS.
That was enough to convince manager Lloyd McClendon that Morrison can be a run producer in the Mariners’ revamped lineup.
“I think, all in all, he’s got a chance to be a guy who can hit 25 home runs for us and drive in 100,” McClendon told The News Tribune. “He’s a good hitter. He hits left-handers and right-handers. He takes his walks.”
Morrison hired a private trainer during the offseason to improve his durability. If he can’t stay healthy, reclamation project Jesus Montero and 37-year-old utility player Willie Bloomquist are next in line. Top prospect D.J. Peterson is likely to begin the year at Triple-A Tacoma, though he isn’t far away from making the big leagues, either.
“It’s always a concern,” McClendon admitted of Morrsion’s health in The News Tribune story. “We still have to watch him to make sure we can keep him healthy throughout the year. He got to do it at some point. Why not this year?”
It’s the only way Morrison can reach his potential. In 2011, his best season, the left-handed hitter produced 23 home runs, 72 RBIs and a .247 batting average with the Marlins. That year, he played a career-high 123 games.
The Mariners need him to play more.
“Just put me in the lineup every day,” he vowed, “I’ll produce. It’s up to me to stay in the lineup, but if I’m in the lineup every day, I know I’m going to hit, and I know I’m going to hit well.”
- Remember CF Franklin Gutierrez? He’s back in Mariners camp trying to play after sitting out last year because of an illness. The good news: There are zero expectations, so anything he does is a bonus.
- MLB.com believes CF Austin Jackson will be the Mariners X-factor this season after struggling last year following the trade from the Detroit Tigers.
- McClendon doesn’t mind the elevated expectations. But he’s not letting players get ahead of themselves.
If Willie didn’t get hurt I think he would have been the full time 1B last season during the second half. Fortunately for LoMo he had an awesome September. But I’m not willing to jump on his bandwagon based on one month. If he has another slow start with Mendoza-like qualities and Montero is hitting like was expected of him in Tacoma I wouldn’t hesitate to bring up Jesus.