Three intra-squad games into spring training, perhaps the bviggest surprise in camp is that Michael Saunders – the 25-year-old outfielder who seemed a forgotten man after last year – has reopened eyes.
The same Canadian left-handed hitter with the career .197 batting average spent his winter revamping his head and his swing, and the early returns are in. Saunders has doubled, tripled and homered, stolen a base, scored four fruns and driven in four.
“Saunders has been swinging it all camp,” manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s no longer in between swinging and not swinging. He’s taking some chances, going after pitches aggressively.
“Talent has never been the issue with Saunders. It’s been about that one tool – albeit the most important tool.”
What did Saunders do this winter?
“I worked on a lot of things this off-season, including the non-physical side,” Saunders said. “Last year I was too passive. I worked on the mental side of the game, and now I’m selectively aggressive. When you put yourself in position to hit, it just flows.
“You’re aggressive on pitches to hit because you’re ready. You’re not sitting on a pitch, you’re prepared to hit, whether it’s the first pitch of an at-bat or the 10th.”
“This organization has backed me, supported me, stayed with me, and I think the team wants to see that patience rewarded,” Saunders said. “(Batting coach) Chris Chambliss supports what I’ve done this winter.
“We’re all on the same page, and I think they’re a little excited by it, too.”With the Mariners since the 2004 draft, Saunders wants it to work in Seattle.”
Obviously, a long way to go to win a job, but Saunders is a talented defensive outfielder with speed, a strong arm and the ability to play center field – which could factor in should Franklin Gutierrez miss time with injury.
For now, Saunders is ther feel-good story of the few two weeks. That’s not a bad start.