ANAHEIM, Calif. – Michael Saunders has had a different batting coach in each of the three seasons he has spent with the Seattle Mariners, and somewhere along the line he forgot how he used to hit.
After a three-hit night Tuesday, Saunders called his father and the two talked a little baseball.
“He told me, ‘That’s the closest I’ve seen you to the way you used to swing,’ ” Saunders said Wednesday. “It made me think. Every coach I’ve had has helped me and tried to get me to do basically the same thing.
“This winter, I heard it from someone else and it clicked. It was desperation that got me to try it. Now I look at my swing and it is like the one I had in high school. Maybe that’s why it feels so natural, so comfortable.”
Saunders seems to have found his swing on this trip, which began 10 days ago in Texas. When it began, he was batting .224.
After the game Wednesday, the outfielder was batting .277.
“Michael is as focused and determined as any player we have, and he’s playing as well as any player we have,” manager Eric Wedge said.
Saunders is on pace for 45 doubles and 17 home runs.
“It’s a long season, and we have a long, long way to go,” Saunders said. “I feel great, and I can see the reward for my hard work, but that work isn’t over. I’ve got a lot left to do.”
FELIX ON TRACK
The earliest ace Felix Hernandez could pitch would be Sunday against the Dodgers, and after playing catch Wednesday both he and his manager were optimistic.
“He’s going to play catch (Wednesday) and (today), and we’ll see how he feels Friday and go from there,” Wedge said. “He’d like to pitch as soon as possible, and I told him, ‘I don’t want to hold you back.’ But if there’s any uncertainty, we have options.”
Then Hernandez played catch and walked through the dugout as Wedge was talking to the media.
“How you feel?” the manager asked.
Felix put his right thumb in the air.
The Mariners have been road warriors, whether they wanted the label or not. Their series finale Wednesday was their 37th road game of the season. Seattle has played just 22 games at Safeco Field. … Hisashi Iwakuma continues to gain the respect of his manager. “He’s been able to do what he wants with the ball,” Wedge said. “And a few times on this trip already, he’s saved our bullpen from blowing up. When you’re playing 36 games in 37 days, or 20 in a row, that’s a huge contribution.” … Justin Smoak’s award for winning American League Player of the Week last week will be a watch. “I don’t wear watches except when I go hunting in the offseason,” Smoak said. “And then it’s a camouflage watch.”
The Mariners are off today before hosting a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers beginning Friday at Safeco Field.firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/mariners @LarryLarue