BALTIMORE -- The life of a long reliever is never easy, given sporadic usage, but for Brandon Maurer it's even more of an adjustment as he adapts to a bullpen role for the first time in his career.
Maurer has always been a starter until being called back up by the Mariners on July 27 to replace Hector Noesi as the long man. He's pitched twice now in relief, with mixed results.
Maurer has gone three innings in both his appearances, but in his first outing, he pitched two perfect innings before giving up a two-run homer in his third frame at Boston in an 8-2 loss. On Friday, he went the opposite direction, giving up three straight singles and then a grand slam to Nate McLouth before getting his first out, but then holding the Orioles without a hit the rest of the way.
Still adapting to his new role?
"I'd say so," said Maurer, who is 2-7 with a 7.16 ERA in 12 appearances overall this rookie season. "I need to get comfortable coming out there, maybe not throwing as many pitches in the 'pen."
Maurer said his initial pitches were "going up and away instead of down and away," including the two-seamer that McLouth drove out with the bases full. But he began working toward throwing more downhill and found some success after his rough beginning.
"I'll try to work off this," said Maurer, who began the year in the rotation and is still regarded as a bright young prospect after just turning 23 last month.
Acting manager Robby Thompson said Maurer is a work in progress.
"After that first inning, he settled down and made some adjustments," Thompson said. "A lot of those pitches were over the heart of the plate, and when you do that against this club here, you're going to run into some problems. He started mixing up his pitches better and locating better."
Morales rides hot streak; not focusing on free agency
BALTIMORE -- Mariners designated hitter Kendrys Morales finished Friday's 11-8 loss to the Orioles with four straight hits, extending his consecutive hit streak to eight at-bats and putting him one shy of Raul Ibanez's club record of nine in a row set in 2004.
But while the red-hot hitter is putting together an excellent season, he said he's not worrying about what happens when he becomes a free agent at year's end. General manager Jack Zduriencik has indicated an interest in talking to Morales about staying in Seattle, but Morales said he's only concerned with finishing this year strong for now.
"I feel comfortable here. I like what I see," Morales said Saturday through interpreter Jaime Navarro, the team's bullpen coach. "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.
"I haven't thought about it. I'm not worrying about that. I'm worried about finishing strong, and after that we'll talk about it."
Morales went 4-for-5 in Thursday's series finale in Boston before Friday's loss to the O's, becoming just the second player in Mariners history with back-to-back four hit games. Ichiro Suzuki pulled that feat three different times.
Going into Saturday's game, Morales had gone 13-for-17 on the current road trip and 22-for-49 (.449) over his last 12 games, as he hiked his batting average to .298 on the season.
Morales obviously is seeing the ball well right now and has made a conscious effort to get on pitchers quickly during his hot streak.
"I'm trying to be aggressive on the first pitch," Morales said. "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."
Acting manager Robby Thompson said Morales is on his best streak since he joined the club, but that comes as no surprise.
"The guy has ice in his veins," Thompson said. "He's as even-keeled as anybody I've been around. You'll never know if he's been slumping a little or if he's been performing like he has these last couple series. That's just the way he is. That's why he is who he is, not only out here on the field, but in the dugout and clubhouse. He's a special guy."
Mariners welcome back Morse's power, production
BALTIMORE -- Michael Morse hit six home runs in his first nine games with the Mariners in April and ranked among the American League long-ball leaders for the first six weeks of the season, but injuries and a stint on the disabled list derailed the big right fielder.
But Morse crushed his first home run since May 27 in Friday night's 11-8 loss to the Orioles, and he is looking to get back on track now that he's finally feeling like himself again after recovering from a strained quadriceps muscle.
Morse was 0-for-11 since coming off the DL on Tuesday until he doubled in his third at-bat on Friday and then homered in the eighth inning on a soaring solo shot to left field.
"Every game I've played since I've been back, I've felt good," said Morse. "It's just sometimes you can hit a ball hard and get an out. My timing was a little off, but it's something I don't press on. I know it'll be there. I believe in my swing and my abilities, so it's just a matter of time."
Acting manager Robby Thompson welcomed the sight of Morse timing up some pitches and unleashing his considerable power.
"Those were good signs, obviously," said Thompson. "It's tough coming back from a rehab assignment. It doesn't come back as quickly as you want sometimes. He's working on his timing, and [Friday] was much better. It gives him some boost, some confidence coming back and knowing he's close to turning the corner."
Morse has 12 home runs and 25 RBIs with a .245 batting average in 220 at-bats going into Saturday's game against the Orioles.
• Jesus Montero went 3-for-5 with an RBI while playing first base for Triple-A Tacoma in Friday's 8-3 loss to Omaha. Montero is hitting .258 in 17 games with the Rainiers since being sent down.
• Franklin Gutierrez went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run for Tacoma and is batting .224 in 34 games as he continues his third Minor League stint.