PEORIA, Ariz. -- For Raul Ibanez, every Spring Training brings something new. Even his 21st professional camp, which saw him come full circle Saturday as he returned to the Mariners complex for the first day of full-squad workouts.
"It's an awesome feeling to be back where I started," Ibanez said prior to taking the field for the first time since signing with Seattle as a free agent this offseason. "I remember coming into this parking lot back in 1993 as a Minor Leaguer. So being able to come back is just a huge thrill."
Ibanez spent the first nine years of his professional career with the Mariners organization, then returned to Seattle for another five seasons from 2004-08. Now he's back at age 40 for his third turn with the club.
The only Mariners remaining from Ibanez's previous stint are Felix Hernandez and Michael Morse, who also rejoined the club this year.
Like all the Mariners, he's thrilled for Hernandez after the young ace signed his new $175 million contract earlier this week.
"Obviously he's one of the top pitchers in the game and I'm glad to get to see him work again on the same team instead of playing against him," Ibanez said. "Because it's not just about his talent and ability, but his drive. He's a fierce competitor. He's a guy I've really enjoyed and am really proud to watch the pitcher and man that he's developed into. He's a quality human being and a quality player. Great player, great person."
Mariners plan to use Morales mostly as DH
PEORIA, Ariz. -- A lot could change in the next six weeks, but Mariners manager Eric Wedge said Saturday that Kendrys Morales will likely spend the majority of his time at designated hitter this season if things go according to plan.
Morales, acquired from the Angels in a trade for Jason Vargas, shared time with Justin Smoak during first-base drills on the first day of full-squad workouts. But Smoak is the better defender and if he can produce at the plate this season, he'll likely get the nod there while the Mariners use the DH spot to get Morales' big bat in the lineup.
"Right now the plan coming in is we see him getting the bulk of his at-bats at DH," Wedge said, "but we want him to get reps at first base because that's an option for him as well."
Morales played 92 games at DH last year for the Angels and 28 at first base as he came back from a fractured ankle that cost him the entire 2011 season. He'd like to play first base, but knows he'll have to show he can do so to get more than just the occasional start.
"I have to be the one to be ready," he said through interpreter Rafael Colon. "There's still time to decide where I'm going to play."
One thing that is certain, the Mariners will find a way to get his bat in the lineup. The Cuban native was one of the American League's emerging power hitters in 2009 with 34 home runs and 108 RBIs, but then saw his career halted by the serious ankle injury midway through the 2010 season when he got hurt leaping into a pile of teammates at home plate after a walk-off grand slam against the Mariners.
"He's a big-league hitter," Wedge said. "He's a run producer who is comfortable being in the middle of the lineup. He has a lot of experience and he's somebody we're counting on to be in the middle of the lineup."
Morales said he's far ahead of last year at this time, when he wasn't even able to participate in early workouts with the Angels. And if he is healthy, the Mariners will have an added offensive weapon.
"I don't think he's playing catch-up anymore," Wedge said. "He had to do that the last couple years. This is a good time for him, a good spot for him. He can come in here and just focus on baseball. Obviously there's always going to be maintenance with him to keep him healthy and available, but we trust he's going to do that and we're going to make sure he does that."
Wedge delivers annual kickoff speech at camp
PEORIA, Ariz. -- With the entire Mariners squad now in camp, manager Eric Wedge gathered his troops on Saturday morning for his annual season-opening chat before sending them out on the field for the first full-squad workout of the spring.
Wedge is known to deliver a pretty strong message as he speaks from the heart about what he considers important in the way players prepare and conduct themselves and how they should respect the game and their teammates.
"There's a little difference [each year], but the same general message," said third baseman Kyle Seager. "His goals and wants for us haven't changed. He expects the same thing from us and expects us to do the right things and perform as well as we can. He gets you ready to work, that's for sure."
Wedge said this is a different team and different clubhouse in his third year at the helm, so his message reflects some changes. But he has his core beliefs that always are part of the opening talk.
"I felt I said what I needed to say," he said. "I spent some time talking to them about what we know is important about being a Seattle Mariner and what our expectations are and where we feel we're at.
"Ultimately it's about a group of young people that have gained experience at the big league level and young people that are here for the first time and then you have your veterans we brought in. I like the diversity of it. You look at our 61 guys in camp, I feel we could match up with anybody in regard to the quality of ballplayers in our camp as a whole."
• Right-handed reliever Jhonny Nunez, who was in the Rays organization last year, joined the team Saturday after missing the first three days of camp due to visa issues. That leaves catcher Ronny Paulino as the only player still not in attendance as he also is dealing with a visa holdup in getting out of the Dominican Republic.
• All the pitchers in camp except Nunez and Felix Hernandez have now thrown two 10-minute bullpen sessions after the second half of the staff took their turn Saturday. Hernandez won't begin throwing his bullpen sessions until sometime next week after coming to camp late due to his contract renewal.
• Four new veterans made up the first group of position players taking batting practice on the main field Saturday, with Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez, Jason Bay and Kendrys Morales getting the first hacks. Though it's the first day and players are just trying to get their timing down, Morse and Morales in particular put on a pretty good power display.
The second group in the cage was Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak, Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders, while the final group on Field One consisted of Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan, Alex Liddi and Robert Andino.
Smoak had a pretty good day at the plate, Liddi crushed a few deep balls and Andino showed surprising power for a 6-foot, 195-pound middle infielder.
• The Mariners will be on the field every day from about 9:30 to noon this coming week, then will adjust that slightly once Cactus League games begin Friday.