By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Mariners outfielder Logan Morrison has a few goals in mind for his planned rehabilitation stint at Class AAA Tacoma beginning Friday.
Morrison hasn’t played since April 14, when he strained his right hamstring prior to Seattle’s game against the Texas Rangers. He said the plan is to serve as Tacoma’s designated hitter during his first three games there, then play first base to see how his body responds to being in the field.
And at the plate?
“When you get in the box you want to feel comfortable, like you’re controlling the at-bat,” Morrison said prior to Seattle’s game against the Houston Astros on Thursday. “Swinging at strikes, letting balls go, and then putting the barrel on it.
“That’s not too much to ask, right?”
Of course, staying healthy is important, too. Morrison said he suffered a minor setback during his recovery from the injury, saying that he “felt (the hamstring) kind of pull again” while he was running the bases. But he did some running on Wednesday in Texas and said “everything felt good.”
“I think we’re past that,” Morrison said of the setback. “I kind of adjusted my stride and stuff like that. I was striding out too long and putting a lot of pressure on my hamstring.”
In 20 at-bats prior to his injury, Morrison batted .150. Once fully healthy, he hopes to contribute with more frequency.
“This rehab thing gets old. It’s no fun watching these guys go out and grind every day,” Morrison said. “I want to help contribute somehow. I feel like when I’m in the lineup, we’re a better team. Whether it shows in the box score or not, I just want to be out there helping the team win.”
Morrison will likely be joined in Tacoma by left-handed pitcher James Paxton, who threw what Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon described as a “light sideline” prior to Thursday’s game, and is another step closer to recovering from the strained back muscle that has kept him out since April 8.
Barring any setbacks from that outing, Paxton is scheduled to pitch in Tacoma on Sunday against the El Paso Chihuahuas. The plan is for Paxton to throw “around 75 pitches,” McClendon said.
He’s less worried about Paxton’s performance there than he is about his arm.
“We know what he can do,” McClendon said. “Just needs to be healthy and get his pitch count up.”
Right-hander Taijuan Walker is scheduled to throw roughly 50 pitches during a three-inning simulated game Thursday, McClendon said, before heading to the minors to begin a rehab assignment.
Hart talks hamstring
Mariners designated hitter Corey Hart said Thursday that he’s feeling better after suffering a grade-2 hamstring strain during Sunday’s game at Minnesota, but that “it’s still nothing to be happy about yet.”
Hart, who is batting .209 with five home runs and 17 RBI this season, flew home to Seattle on Monday and received a platelet-rich plasma injection designed to assist with the healing of bone and tissue.
He’s expected to miss 4-to-6 weeks of playing time while he recovers. Hart noted that “I’m pretty used to rehab, so I know what to do to get back,” a reference to the repairs required last year on both of his knees, which forced him to sit the entire 2013 season.
“Compared to how it felt Sunday, it feels a lot better,” Hart said. “I can walk around without having to have a stiff leg all of the time.”
With Hart out of the lineup, the Mariners are “mixing and matching” at the designated hitter spot, McClendon said. On Thursday, it was outfielder Stephen Romero’s turn to try it out.
Not that McClendon is thrilled about the idea of putting a young player — Romero is 25 — in that position.
“DHing is a very difficult thing to do, and ideally you don’t want to have young guys do it,” McClendon said. “But we are where we are right now, so we don’t really have much of a choice.
“You’ve got to be strong-willed, obviously. You’ve got to have a short memory … but really, you’d rather have a veteran guy that knows what he’s doing and can handle it. We have a lot of younger guys right now that are going to have to handle that role.”
After starting at designated hitter and second base in his first two games back with the Mariners since being recalled from Tacoma, Nick Franklin started Thursday’s game at shortstop. McClendon said prior to Franklin’s call-up that he would need to play multiple positions.