Aggressive Saunders starting to pack power

Aggressive Saunders starting to pack power

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mariners center fielder Michael Saunders came into this season vowing to be more aggressive at the plate, swinging harder and not being afraid to fail. That mental approach, along with a more compact stroke, seems to be paying off in a big way.

Not only is Saunders making more contact, hitting .333 over the past eight games to raise his average to .258 entering Monday, he's producing the kind of power the Mariners haven't seen in his previous parts of four seasons in the Majors.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder hit his eighth double of the season Sunday. Combined with three home runs, he's racked up 11 extra-base hits in 66 at-bats. Last season, he totaled seven extra-base hits in 161 at-bats and hit just .149.

"He's not in between by any stretch," manager Eric Wedge said. "And I felt like last year he was maybe more in between than anybody we had. This year he's been the opposite of that. He's up there with conviction. He's playing the game that way, whether offensively, defensively or on the basepaths. And good for him because he's had a tough time the last couple years, and all that work and change in mindset is paying off for him."

Saunders' slugging percentage of .515 is the highest of any Mariners regular and dwarfs his career number of .306 in 204 games coming into this year, but he had a .442 slugging percentage in the Minor Leagues, and the Mariners have been waiting to see if he could live up to the promise shown during his rise up the ranks.

"He's always had that kind of power, but he hasn't translated it into games," Wedge said. "He's always had power in his bat, but with the aggressiveness and his approach this year, you've seen it play out more."