By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
SEATTLE — To hear Mariners first baseman Logan Morrison tell it, his recent surge — including his big Monday night — is a matter of improved timing at the plate and a welcome helping of baseball luck.
“I’ve felt like I’ve been swinging the bat better,” said Morrison, who produced the first two-homer game of his career while going 4-for-4 with a walk in Monday’s 12-3 romp over Boston.
“It’s just (the ball has) been finding gloves. They didn’t (on Monday). Or they went out. They didn’t go to the warning track like they have been here. It was fun, man.”
Morrison started his 14th straight game Tuesday since returning from a rehab assignment that lasted the maximum 20 days in his recovery from a strained left hamstring suffered prior to an April 14 game at Texas.
After managing just three hits in his first 23 at-bats, Morrison now has eight in his last 22. That includes three homers and eight RBIs over a six-game span through Monday.
Morrison’s average is up 90 points, to .215, since his return from Tacoma.
“He has better timing,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s played every day. I think the 20 games at Tacoma helped quite a bit to get his timing down.
“I thought his at-bats on the road helped (last week at San Diego and Kansas City). He was very focused. Good at-bats. Even when he didn’t get hits, he had good at-bats. I think it’s carried over.”
The Mariners face a decision Wednesday on whether to activate first baseman Justin Smoak from the disabled list. Outfielder Michael Saunders is eligible to return on Thursday.
McClendon said he would discuss alternatives following Tuesday’s game with general manager Jack Zduriencik. Smoak is recovering from a strained left quadriceps muscle; Saunders from a sore right shoulder.
Smoak was 5-for-23 with one homer and three RBIs through Monday in six rehab games, while Saunders was 9-for-17 with one homer and seven RBIs in four games.
The Mariners could opt simply to keep either or both players at Tacoma. Smoak’s 20-day max doesn’t expire until July 8; Saunders can remain with the Rainiers through July 10.
Outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart can remain at Tacoma through July 11 but is eligible to return now in his recovery from a strained left hamstring. He was 5-for-13 in three games through Monday.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma hasn’t completely kicked the neck pain that troubled him over the last 10 days, but a question regarding his recovery prompted a nod and a one-word answer: “Good.”
Iwakuma is scheduled to pitch Wednesday in the series finale against the Red Sox. He matched season-highs last Friday in yielding five runs and nine hits in a season-low five innings in a no-decision at Kansas City.
“He’s getting better,” McClendon said. “He’s not 100 percent, but did it affect him (in Kansas City)? No. He just left a couple of pitches up.”
All-Star Futures selections
Third baseman D.J. Peterson and outfielder Gabby Guerrero will represent the Mariners in the All-Star Futures Game on July 13 at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Peterson will play for the U.S. squad, while Guerrero will be part of the World roster. The two were teammates at Hi-A High Desert until the Mariners promoted Peterson to Double-A Jackson after Monday’s game.
The Mariners have had 31 Futures selections since the game began in 1999.
Peterson, 22, was the club’s first-round draft pick in 2013. He was batting .326 at High Desert with 18 homers and 73 RBIs in 65 games prior to his promotion to Jackson.
Guerrero, 20, is a Dominican native who was signed Jan. 11 2011 as a non-drafted free agent. He is batting .313 at High Desert with eight homers and 50 RBIs in 71 games.
Major League Baseball selects the two 25-player teams in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, MLB.com, Baseball America and the 30 clubs.
Each organization must be receive at least one selection. Players from all full-season affiliates are eligible for selection.
Seven players on the Mariners’ current roster played in the Futures Game: John Buck (2002), Robinson Cano (2003-04), Corey Hart (2002), Felix Hernandez (2004), Logan Morrison (2010), James Paxton (2011) and Michael Saunders (2007).
Brad Miller was picked last season but didn’t participate due to his promotion to the big leagues.
The Mariners, through Monday, had the best ERA in the majors for June at 2.40. The rotation’s ERA of 2.59 was the lowest among all American League teams and on pace to break the franchise one-month record of 2.73 in July 2012…Logan Morrison, on Monday, became the first Mariners first baseman to reach base at least five times, while scoring three or more runs and driving in four or more runs…The Mariners entered Tuesday with a plus-46 run differential that ranked second among AL clubs — albeit a distant second to Oakland, which was plus-135.
It was 22 years ago Wednesday — June 25, 1992 — that Ken Griffey Jr. hit the 2,000th homer in Mariners history.
Griffey’s blast came in the first inning of a 13-4 rout of the California Angels at the Kingdome. It was also the first of a four-homer barrage in the game; Tino Martinez, Edgar Martinez and Dave Valle also went deep.
The Mariners and Red Sox complete their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (5-3 with a 3.04 ERA) will face Boston right-hander Clay Buchholz (2-4, 7:02).
Root Sports will carry the game.
The Mariners have an open date Thursday but will conduct their annual golf tournament to benefit Cystic Fibrosis research at Newcastle Golf Club.
The season resumes Friday when Cleveland makes a three-game weekend visit to Safeco Field.