Mariners notes: Morales looks toward next career milestone

ST. LOUIS — There was little fanfare when Kendrys Morales hit his 100th home run on Wednesday night at Safeco Field. It didn’t help that it was the only run the Mariners scored in a 6-1 loss to the Houston Astros.

“It’s just a number,” Morales said about the home run. “Now I have to go for 200 and then 300 and keep going.”

Morales missed almost two full seasons to a gruesome lower leg fracture in 2009. He knew his promising career could have ended with that unfortunate home plate walk-off celebration.

“It inspired me to play hard and to do my best and keep to playing that way after dealing with so many obstacles in my life,” Morales said through translator and bullpen coach Jaime Navarro.

Morales will be a free agent after this season. Seattle has initiated preliminary talks with his agent Scott Boras about a possible extension. However, Boras has said to a few national news outlets that he believes Morales can get better money on the open market. The Mariners can still give Morales a qualifying offer of one year at approximately $14 million for next season. Morales can accept that or opt out for free agency. If he opts out, whatever team signs him will have to forfeit its 2014 first-round draft pick to the Mariners.

Morales isn’t too concerned about the contract details with a month to go in the season. He just wants to play.

“I’ve had good numbers from the beginning this year and I just want to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” he said. “After the season, I’ll think about what comes next. But for now, I’m just working to finish strong and do the things I need to do.”

The numbers are solid. He’s hitting .280 with 31 doubles, 21 homers and 76 RBI while batting in the middle of the order for Seattle.

“From the beginning, I’ve felt comfortable,” he said. “It was a good opportunity coming to Seattle and as soon as I got here, I knew they’d give me that chance. I just keep playing hard, just doing my thing. I feel comfortable and like what they’re doing here. I’m just going to keep doing whatever it takes to help this ball club.”

Felix feeling fine

Felix Hernandez is moving closer to pitching again for the Mariners. The Seattle ace has been sidelined since Sept. 2 with a mild oblique strain. On Friday, he had a flat ground throwing session before the game.

According to the Mariners, Hernandez felt good. Because everything went well, Hernandez is now scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Monday in Detroit. If that goes well, he would likely start Wednesday or Thursday against the Tigers.

Iwakuma makes hitting debut

Hishashi Iwakuma’s first at-bat in the majors came in the second inning on Friday night at St. Louis. Iwakuma struck out on four pitches with a few swings that would never be confused with, say, Ken Griffey Jr.’s near flawless swing.

Despite this being his second season, Iwakuma had never started a road interleague game last season or this season.

Even Mariners manager Eric Wedge was a little curious about how Iwakuma would do at the plate.

“We’ll find out tonight,” a chuckling Wedge said. “It’s always interesting when American League pitchers have to bat, but it should be more with Kuma.”

Hitting isn’t totally foreign to Iwakuma. Much like Major League Baseball, the Nippon Professional League in Japan has two divisions: The Pacific Division, which uses the DH, and the Central Division, where pitchers hit. Iwakuma played for the Rakuten Eagles in the Pacific Division. But during interleague play, he got 24 plate appearances. He had one hit and struck out 15 times.

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