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July 5, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Morse believes he’s close to return

A statue honoring Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench outside Great American Ballpark

A statue honoring Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench outside Great American Ballpark

It looks like they’re going to get in tonight’s game despite an iffy forecast — the rain has held off so far, though tomorrow is no guarantee. But the damp conditions and wet field has delayed Michael Morse’s plans of running on the bases as the next test for his strained right quad. Morse is eligible to come off the disabled list today, but the Mariners plan to send him out on a minor-league rehab assignment — which they hope will be brief — before activating him.

They’ll try again tomorrow with the running, weather permitting. Morse is getting antsy to play again and says so far he’s felt good in his workouts this week.

“Hopefully real soon I will be able to go out on assignment for a couple days and either come back before the All-Star break or after the All-Star break.  At this point, I just want to make sure I’m healthy for the rest of the year. This is a lot better than it felt before. I feel like I can play right now if I could. Definitely, when I was playing in Oakland I shouldn’t have been. So I compare it that to then and I’m like, oh man, it’s 100 percent. I just want to make sure I don’t have to worry about this and play the rest of the games this year.”

Morse said he hopes to play through the season once he returns. Whether it will be with Seattle is another question, because he’s a trade-deadline candidate. It’s been a trying season for Morse, who started off hot but then had a finger injury, followed by the quad strain.

“I’ve got handed a bad deck of cards when it comes to my health,” he said. “If it wasn’t one thing it was the other. But that’s how it goes sometimes. Everybody plays a little hurt during the year so you get used to it.”

Brad Miller, meanwhile, was excited to get a shot at the leadoff spot. He said he did it all last season with High Desert and Jackson, and “maybe one time” with Tacoma earlier this season.

“Hopefully I can set the tone,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of experience, for sure.”

He said he’s going to try to keep basically the same approach.

“Just get on base. Same thing. Really, you could be leading off the inning just one time. They say hitting’s contagious, so hopefully go up, have a good at-bat, and pass on to the next guy.”

Manager Eric Wedge said that with Endy Chavez and Jason Bay not in the lineup, he decided to give Miller a try.

“He puts up good at-bats, we didn’t have Bay and Chavez,” Wedge said. “So we had to find somebody to pop in there. I like having the young kids up top, then the veterans in the middle, then go back to the young kids. We’ll see what happens.”

Research by the Mariners PR staff and STATS, Inc. shows that the Mariners are the youngest team up the middle in the majors. Catcher Mike Zunino, shortstop Miller, second baseman Nick Franklin and center fielder Dustin Ackley have a combined average age of 23 years, 42 days. That’s just younger than Miami (23-69). A distant third is Colorado (25-20) followed by the Cubs (26-37) and Kansas City (25-56). Of course, when Henry Blanco is behind the plate, not so much.

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