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Published: Sunday, August 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Mariners looking towards future with Morales

BALTIMORE -- The Seattle Mariners have made it very clear in the last week: They like Kendrys Morales. They like the way he hits. They like the way he fits in the middle of the order. They like his presence in the clubhouse.
And they'd like to keep him in a Seattle uniform after this season.
General manager Jack Zduriencik told the media following the trade deadline on Wednesday, and then later verified it in a radio interview on Sports Radio KJR the following day, that he's had preliminary talks with Morales and his agent Scott Boras about his future with the team.
It's why they didn't trade him despite several inquiries.
"To me, our best option was to keep him here," Zduriencik said in the interview. "We do have the qualifying offer that we are prepared to make. We are also trying to do something with Kendrys as we move forward."
The qualifying offer means that the Mariners have first right to sign Morales to a contract extension. If he chooses to go elsewhere, they would receive a compensatory draft pick in the first round of next year's amateur draft.
But the Mariners would rather just keep Morales around instead.
Going into Saturday's game, the 30-year-old designated hitter was batting .298 with 26 doubles, 17 homers and 64 RBI. He has a team-high .353 on-base percentage to go with a .488 slugging percentage.
He's been everything the Mariners wanted when they acquired him in a trade from the Los Angeles Angels for starting pitcher Jason Vargas.
Lately, Morales has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball.
He had back-to-back four-hit games on Thursday and Friday, just the second Mariners player to accomplish the feat. And those eight hits came consecutively.
In the first four games of the road trip, Morales had 13 hits in 17 at-bats.
"I'm trying to be aggressive on the first pitch," Morales said Saturday through bullpen coach and interpreter Jaime Navarro. "If they throw them for strikes, I'm going to go after them. That's the best thing I've been doing. Right now I feel comfortable doing that and it's working for me."
In his last 12 games, Morales is hitting .449 (22-for-49) with four doubles, three homers and nine RBI.
"He's been pretty steady all season long," acting manager Robby Thompson said of Morales. "This is probably the best he's been. The guy has ice in veins. He's as even-keeled a player as I've ever been around."
Morales is keeping that same attitude when it comes to his future.
"I haven't thought about it," he said. "I'm not worrying about that. I'm worried about finishing strong and after that we'll talk about it."
But it's not to say he's opposed to the prospect of staying with the organization. He has enjoyed his time with the Mariners.
"I feel comfortable here," he said. "I like what I see. We have a young team and I like it a lot. But that's something they need to work on, a decision from the office, and I'm not going to worry about it and just keep helping the team."
Ackley sits
Dustin Ackley was on the bench for the second straight day on Saturday. With essentially four "starting" outfielders, Thompson is trying to find at-bats and playing time for them all. It appears Ackley could be the odd man out more often than not when it comes to playing time.
"When you talk about the guys we throw out in the corners spots, for me and us as a staff you throw out your best center fielder out there to cover as much ground as possible," Thompson said. "Ack is kind of in transition from the infield to the outfield. We want to get him in left field too. I talked with him, he understands. I wanted to let him know, 'Hey, you aren't going to be forgotten. You are going to play.' And he said, 'Hey, I get it. I get it.' We'll mix and match these things."
It's an interesting situation for Ackley. He's trying to learn a position, but his playing time will decrease. In a normal situation, Ackley would be sent to Class AAA Tacoma. There's a good chance he'd still be in Tacoma learning and playing everyday if not for the ultra-fragile Franklin Gutierrez. Yes, Morse and Ibanez aren't a part of the future and still playing, while Ackley still is supposed to be. But the Mariners are also trying to win games and put out a competitive product.
It's obvious that Ackley is far from comfortable in the outfield. He's been serviceable, but there is a hesitancy that comes from lack of experience. His arm has been a glaring weakness. Ackley has never had a strong arm. It's one of the reasons the Mariners converted him to second base after drafting him. But he's been trying to improve that.
"He's been playing a lot of long toss trying to strengthen it," he said. "But sometimes you can only get so much out of that. Sometimes and arm is what an arm is. What he needs to work on is trying to stop a runner from advancing with his legs, meaning come in and get the ball as hard as he possibly can. Charge that thing and have that third base coach think he's getting to the ball quickly. You see Coco Crisp does that very well, but Coco's been out there a number of years. His arm is a little short out there, but there's ways he can make it better."

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