Michael Saunders wants to play every day. But right now he isn’t. The Mariners and acting manager Robby Thompson are trying to find playing time for the three outfield spots amongst Saunders, Dustin Ackley, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez.
It hasn’t been easy. The Mariners want to see if Ackley’s conversion to outfield is working and they are also showcasing Morse to possibly make a waivers trade to a team in need of a power bat.
It has meant that Saunders has been out of the starting line-up for half of the games on the current road trip, including the first two games of the series in Texas.
“Any time you aren’t in there – and I’m sure I speak of everyone else in the room – it’s no fun,” Saunders said. “You want to be out there playing. We are going to sit from time to time. We aren’t happy when we do, but nevertheless you just have to understand the situation.”
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On Sunday, he got a start and made the most of it, racking up a season-high three hits, driving in a run with a double and also scoring a run in the Mariners’ 4-3 win over the Texas Rangers.
Saunders is trying to find ways stay sharp with the adjusted playing time.
“I just come to the yard every day expecting to play and if I’m not in there, I have to make sure I’m ready to go late in the game or whenever they need me,” he said. “It’s just preparation. It’s something I have to learn to do. It’s something I’m not really used to having to do in my career.”
Saunders first big contribution came in the fifth inning. He notched his second single off of Rangers starter Yu Darvish – a hard liner to right. He advanced to second on Dustin Ackley’s infield single. With runners on first and second and no outs, acting manager Robby Thompson had Humberto Quintero try to lay down a sacrifice bunt. Saunders got a little too far off of the bag and Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski fired to second base.
“In all honesty, I’d like to say it was a great read and me and Robby rehearsed that play, but I just got caught flat-footed,” he said.
Saunders couldn’t go back to second, so he headed to third. Elvis Andrus, who caught the ball at second, couldn’t make a throw to third and Saunders was safe.
“Luckily, it worked out, but it was not a good read,” he said. “I did think about going back, but I was dead, I’m out. So I just took off for third.”
Saunders scored moments later on a fielder’s choice from Endy Chavez to give Seattle a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth inning with the score tied at 1-1, Saunders doubled to right off of Darvish to score to Nick Franklin from second. After falling behind 1-2 in the count, Saunders watched a slider in the dirt, fouled off two more sliders and then hammered a hanging slider for the hit.
“Darvish is a strikeout pitcher and he’s got the kitchen sink,” Saunders said. “He throws anywhere from 90-97 mph, sinkers, cutters and he’ll mix up his breaking balls. I was just looking to put the ball in play. I was just really battling.”
All three of Saunders’ hits came off Darvish.