Asked Friday for his impressions of new teammate Michael Morse, Giants right-hander Tim Lincecum harkened back to a 2011 start against Morse’s then-team, the Washington Nationals. In Morse’s first at-bat in that June night game in San Francisco, Lincecum threw the right-hander a “down-in fastball” that Morse crushed to left field for a home run.
“I thought, ‘How did he hit that thing with that high leg kick?’ ” Lincecum said.
It’s part of the reason Lincecum said he believes the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Morse, whom the Giants signed this offseason to be their everyday left fielder, has a type of power that will play even in notoriously pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Lincecum, speaking at the Giants’ annual media day, ahead of today’s FanFest, called it “that whippy power.”
Morse displayed plenty of it during a career year in 2011, when he batted .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs for the Nationals. He has been trying to recapture that form since. Last season he was limited to 88 games while battling a balky wrist, broken right little finger and strained quadriceps, and batted .215 with 13 homers.
He underwent minor wrist surgery over the winter, during which he signed a one-year deal with the Giants. On Friday, he said he feels “120 percent” health-wise. While the Giants still plan to ease Morse into things during spring training, that’s encouraging for the player, who said the biggest key to his 2011 season was “I stayed healthy.”
As long as he’s in the lineup, Morse figures to be an offensive upgrade in left field for the Giants, whose left fielders last season combined for just five home runs on a team that hit a total of 107 – second-fewest in the majors. He hit 13 homers last season in 337 plate appearances.
“He’s a presence ... that lengthens our lineup (and) hopefully gives us run production and a power component from left field, which you want,” general manager Brian Sabean said. “Will he return to Washington form? Who knows, but if he does, we’ve made a good decision.”
Manager Bruce Bochy said he plans to play Morse regularly in left field, where the Giants used a platoon for most of last season. Gregor Blanco will be used as a rotating fourth outfielder, with Morse starting alongside Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence.
Morse on Friday didn’t sound overly concerned about his new home park’s reputation for stifling power hitters. Asked to describe himself as a hitter, he said he “(likes) to put the ball in play” and considers home runs “definitely a byproduct.”
“When I start thinking about it, I definitely won’t (hit homers),” he said. “When I think about just putting the ball in play and making solid contact, that’s when it goes.”
Bochy said he has yet to sketch out a lineup for this season, but the possibilities with Morse’s addition are intriguing. “It’s going to be a pretty good lineup,” he said. “Somebody’s going to be hitting seventh that’s not accustomed to it.”