PITTSBURGH — Every Giants fan remembers Michael Morse’s pinch-hit homer in Game 5 of the NLCS last October. Few remember the reason Morse was in that position to begin with.
An oblique strain nearly ended Morse’s season and kept him from regaining the full-time job he held until getting hurt August 31. The Giants have again lost a slugging outfielder to an August oblique strain, and Morse cautioned against rushing Hunter Pence back into the lineup.
“The hardest part is that right when you think you’re feeling good, you try to swing again and you could easily get hurt again,” he said. “He has to listen to what (Dave Groeschner) says. It’s tough, because the team really needs him.”
The Giants are hopeful that Pence will miss just two weeks, and Morse said he started to feel much better at the two-week mark last year. The Giants held him out until Sept. 19. He wasn’t quite right when he returned, and he didn’t play again until the NLCS, when he was limited to bench duty. Morse said his experience wasn't quite the same as Pence's because the Giants could afford to slow-play it with him.
“Last year was different because we knew we would have a Wild Card spot and we played it safe,” he said. “They need him, they need him in the lineup now. It’s going to be touch-and-feel, but he’s a speedy guy with recovering. I don’t think it’ll be more than two weeks.”
Morse and Pence immediately formed a friendship last season, but they were nearly on different sides of a heated rivalry down the stretch this year. Morse signed with the Marlins in the offseason to be closer to home, but he was traded to the Dodgers before the deadline. Los Angeles picked him up to take on salary in a much bigger deal, and Morse was immediately told that he wouldn’t be a Dodger. He was traded to Pittsburgh after getting designated for assignment.
“It’s really cool,” he said. “The Dodgers did me a great favor. They told me they had to designate me, but they said they would find a good place for me. I’m happy to get an opportunity with a team headed in the right direction.”
As Morse learned of the deal with the Dodgers, he said he thought a lot about what it would mean to face the Giants wearing Dodger Blue. It wasn’t a prospect he was looking forward to.
“I was a little nervous,” he said, smiling. “I just play, but if I say I didn’t think about it, I’d be lying. It’s definitely something I thought about. It’s baseball, it’s not up to me. But at the same time I may now be facing the Giants in a one-game (Wild Card) elimination game.”
The Pirates look headed back to the winner-advances game, and Morse said he’s enjoying his time here. He's 7-for-20 with the Pirates and said the National League's second-best team reminds him of the 2014 Giants.
“They have a lot of fun,” he said, “And they believe they’re the best team every time they take the field.”
If Morse returns to AT&T Park this October, he’ll be wearing black and yellow instead of Dodger blue. He got his ring during a pre-game ceremony when the Marlins came into town in May and he smiled, closed his eyes and happily shook his head when recounting that moment.
“Oh man, that was awesome,” he said. “That was so awesome.”