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April 10, 2014 at 3:38 PM

Emptying the recorder: A few thoughts from Michael Saunders on his current role as fourth outfielder

Michael Saunders has played in seven of the Mariners eight games. But he’s started just two of those games. With Abraham Almonte seemingly locked into center field and Dustin Ackley getting every day starts in left field and manager Lloyd McClendon using giving starts to Stefen Romero and Logan Morrison in right field. Saunders has been the odd man out when it comes to playing time. He’s being used largely as a defensive replacement late in games.

This isn’t a role he wants, but he’s a consummate professional and understands it’s what is being asked of him.

“Obviously, I want to be a starting guy,” he said. “But I want to be a contributor any way I can.”

He’s started 411 games over in his career. But that isn’t what’s being asked of him right now.

“It’s not easy, obviously,” he said. “I want to be playing every day. But this is the role I’ve been given right now. We are playing great baseball right now and we are having a lot of fun and any way that I can contribute to help us get the W that night, that’s what’s important.”

So Saunders arrives at the park each day, checks to see if he’s in the line-up (usually he isn’t) and prepares accordingly. No pouting, no sulking, just do your work.

“Right now when I get that opportunity to contribute, I need to be ready for it,” he said. “My preparation starts when I get to the field. If I’m not in the line-up that day, I have to be ready to go whether it’s as a defensive replacement, it’s on the base paths or as a pinch hitter. When I am in there, I have to be ready.”

One thing Saunders can’t do is allow himself to place overemphasize the  importance on his limited at-bats. He knows the only way to gain more playing time is to produce in his limited action. But he can’t force it to happen. It’s when you start to press and make mistakes. He can’t try and get a starting spot back in one at-bat.

“I think base hits are products of good at-bats,” he said. “And I think I have to start from square one and just concentrate on putting up a good at-bat. Results aren’t always base hits. I’m trying to get on base however it may be and go up there and hit balls hard – the outcome whatever it is – I just hope it’s a good at-bat. I’m not saying I don’t want base hits. I’m just concentrating on when I get in the batter’s box on putting up professional ABs.”

He knows that if he puts up good at-bats, the people in charge will notice.

“It’s easy to look at a box score and see a guy go 0-for-4 and not know the true story whether or not he had a good day or a bad day,” he said. “It’s just assumed he had a bad day.  Likewise, if you see a guy that’s 3-for-4, he could have three broken bat hits compared to a guy that went 0-for-4 with four line drives. Sometimes the box score doesn’t tell the truth. So I’m not so worried about that. I’m just trying to concentrate in the box.”

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