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July 25, 2009 at 11:54 AM

Michael Saunders is new starting left fielder for the Seattle Mariners

indians0725 001.jpg
Why is Adrian Beltre smiling? Well, for one, the M’s plan to have him start hitting off a tee Monday or Tuesday.
Some of you might have already seen this update via our Twitter or Facebook link, but Michael Saunders is the new starting left fielder for the Mariners. Ryan Langerhans becomes the team’s fourth outfielder.
I should clarify something. When I wrote that the Mariners now risk losing Wladimir Balentien for nothing, that part was wrong. Balentien was never going to make it past the trade deadline with Seattle. He’s fallen out of favor here — it’s been an issue of consistency in his plate appearances ever since spring training — and was going to be an obvious throw-in for any trade come July 31.
So, he is a throw-in piece. But he was never going to get this team anything on his own like he could have two years ago. So, that’s what I should have written.
Anyhow, Saunders got the news at 11:30 p.m. last night. His mother and father were already in town to see him play for Class AAA Tacoma, so he woke them up at their hotel room, delievered the news, and told him they’d be seeing major league action today. Some of his good freinds are also down here.
“I didn’t sleep a wink, actually, to tell you the truth,” he said. “I was moving around all night, my heart was thumping.”


Saunders had surgery on his right labrum and took seven months to recover. He missed te first month of the season and says he was “still rehabbing” as he played. The biggest part was getting his throwing arm back up to speed.
His bat was fine.
“I’ve widened my stance a little and that’s helped me kind of track baseballs and be a little bit more consistent at the plate,” he said. “I’ve worked a lot with (AAA hitting coach) Alonzo Powell down there and he’s helped me out a lot, taught me about the mental side of hitting.”
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu said the move was made because the team feels Saunders is ready to be the future left fielder. But there were also short-term considerations as well.
“It’s twofold,” he said. “Langerhans has done a nice job for us, but we think he’s more suited to that fourth outfielder role. Balentien has not given us a lot of production. So, the timing of everything is that, since we’re not getting a lot of production out of that left field spot, we can bring a guy up who’s a defender, a guy who has some power potential and a guy who has the potential to be our everyday left fielder next year.”
The Mariners were thinking of bringing up Saunders back when Endy Chavez went down for the season. We’ve already talked about the arbitration clock perhaps playing a role in that. But Saunders was also struggling at the plate at the time and the team says it wanted to make sure he had put it all together before calling him up.
“You have to look at two things,” Wakamatsu said. “Is he coming up to help our club right now? Number two, is he ready? I think he’s answered that question the last month or so.”
Wakamatsu added: “I don’t think there’s ever an absolute guarantee of when you bring a player up…but there’re little things that you listen to in the game reports about pitch selection that are key. Is he turning the ball loose from the outfiled? Does he have the bat speed on a good fastball? All of these questions, our people seem toi think that he’s ready.”
Is this “the big bat” the team needs? No, I doubt this is what Jack Zduriencik plans on that front. But this was one internal option the team had to get better before trades start happening.
There was a good item in USS Mariner today in which Dave Cameron talks about how the offensive addition doesn’t have to mean one “big bat” but really should be multiple bat additions. I agree with that. I don’t think anyone’s ever suggested the Mariners go and get Matt Holliday. All the talk has generally surrounded the team boosting its middle infield, whether it was a third baseman like Garrett Atkins, or — especially after Jack Hannahan was acquired — a shortstop or second baseman like Freddy Sanchez or Jack Wilson. But this team has too many offensive holes, as Cameron mentions. The bottom of this lineup is National League in caliber. You can get away with carrying a Rob Johnson as long as you don’t have a Ronny Cedeno. I still think the team needs a bigger bat in the middle of the order. Heck, even Sanchez would have constituted that. Well, if Saunders pans out, that’s one offensive upgrade this team seriously needed in left. Now, you can look to upgrade at shortstop by the deadline and also at DH, either internally or via another trade acquistion. With so many AAA bats hitting well, I’d like to see someone else get a shot internally. But maybe there is a trade out there as well if the Mariners can manage to get back to about four games out over the next few days, They’re in a tough spot right now.
The lineups:
Indians (39-58)
—————————-
Cabrera, ss
Francisco, cf
Choo, lf
Martinez, c
Peralta, 3b
Hafner, dh
Garko, 1b
Gimenez, rf
Valbuena, 2b
—————————-
Sowers, lhp
Mariners (51-45)
—————————-
Ichiro, rf
Branyan, 1b
Lopez, 2b
Sweeney, dh
Gutierrez, cf
Hannahan, 3b
Johnson, C
Saunders, lf
Cedeno, ss
—————————-
Bedard, lhp
Umpires:
HP – Dale Scott*
1B – Delfin Colon
2B – Mike DiMuro
3B – Ron Kulpa

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