PEORIA, Ariz. — Michael Morse made the Mariners out of camp five years ago thanks to big offensive production in spring training. Now he’s back, and even though he’s a big league regular, he’s still having another fruitful spring for Seattle.
Morse hit two home runs and drove in five runs to lead the Mariners back from a six-run deficit for an 8-7 win over the Cincinnati Reds Thursday in spring training.
Morse’s 3-for-3 afternoon included a double and run scored in the second inning. He hit his first two-run shot in the fourth off Reds starter Homer Bailey and connected for a three-run shot in the fifth off reliever Clay Hensley. Morse is 11-for-31 in spring training and leads the team in home runs with five.
“Didn’t try to do too much, and got good results,” Morse said. He was most satisfied with his double, an at-bat in which he made an adjustment to a two-strike curveball.
“I’m always working. I’m always trying to fine-tune my swing, fine-tune my defense or offense, whatever it could be,” Morse said. “It’s good to get results, no matter what time of year it is. My at-bats are starting to become quality at-bats in a row.”
Kendrys Morales and Justin Smoak added two hits and an RBI each for Seattle, which snapped a four-game losing streak.
“Too much Morse,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “Those balls were hit like a 2-iron.”
Catcher Mike Zunino, the Mariners’ first-round draft pick in 2012, hit a go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning.
Bailey allowed three runs on six hits in four innings. Zack Cozart had two hits including a two-run single in the fourth inning and Chris Heisey had two hits for the Reds.
Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders was roughed up for five earned runs on nine hits in 3 2-3 innings. He pitched through pain from a blister on his left foot.
“Actually my arm felt good, the velocity is starting to get up there,” Saunders said. “I’m not a big guy that looks at results in spring training. I look at where my body is, how my arm feels and working on pitches. The results will come.”
Saunders, who projects as a middle-rotation starter this season, said he noticed the blister during his warmup before Thursday’s game.
Mariners setup man Oliver Perez pitched in first game since returning from Team Mexico and the World Baseball Classic. Perez retired the Reds in order in the ninth inning.
The Mariners face the Netherlands team from the World Baseball Classic on Friday night and will send Jon Garland to the mound. Jeremy Bonderman starts the afternoon game against the Los Angeles Angels. ... The Mariners optioned pitchers Danny Hultzen and Hector Noesi to Triple-A Tacoma, and re-assigned LHP James Paxton and RHPs Jhonny Nunez and Taijuan Walker to minor-league camp following Thursday’s game. Paxton and Walker, with Hultzen three of the Mariners top pitching prospects, appeared in a “B’’ game Thursday morning and didn’t turn in strong performances.