PEORIA, Ariz. -- Earlier this spring, manager Ron Washington had a conversation with Mitch Moreland to let him know the first base job was his. Moreland has been considered the primary first baseman the last two years, but it was never his job alone.
Last season he gave up at-bats to Michael Young, who is no longer on the team. In 2011, Moreland shared time at first base while also playing the outfield and occasionally DH.
"I didn't want him looking over his shoulder," Washington said. "I don't want him to compare himself to anyone else. Just be Mitch Moreland."
Moreland has found his groove at the plate in the last two games with three hits, two of them home runs, and five RBIs. Washington said he isn't looking for Moreland to hit home runs, just for him to hit the ball hard. Considering Moreland stands 6-foot-2 and is a fit 240 pounds, when he hits the ball hard, it will likely leave the park.
"He's only doing what we know he is capable of doing,"Washington said. "I just hope he continues doing it."
With an increased number of at-bats, Moreland can help replace some of the power from the players who departed in the offseason. Moreland had 16 homers in 464 at-bats in 2011 and 15 last season in just 327 at-bats.
And there lies one of the question marks with Moreland -- once he has a regular job, can he stay healthy? He missed more than a month with a hamstring issue in 2012 and had a wrist issue affect his play in the second half of 2011.
The other question centers around his ability to hit left-handers. Moreland hit just .239 against lefties last season but attempted to rectify that by working with a left-handed pitcher for batting practice during the offseason.
His home run Friday was against a lefty, which is notable because only four of his 40 career major league home runs have come off a southpaw.
"I just came in and put myself in good position early this spring,"Moreland said. "I'm trying to feel good and get ready for the season, get my timing right on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively.
"I feel good in my at-bats right now, and I'm trying to have the same approach against a lefty and righty."