Saunders moves up in Mariners' lineup

Saunders moves up in Mariners' lineup

CLEVELAND -- In 200 career starts prior to Wednesday, Michael Saunders had never hit higher than fifth in a Major League lineup. But manager Eric Wedge penciled the young center fielder in second in the opening game of a two-game set against the Indians in his ongoing search for top-of-the-order answers.

Saunders is only batting .226 on the season and has struggled in the past few weeks after a strong start, but Wedge likes his recent approach at the plate and has been trying different players at the No. 2 spot.

"They've pitched him tough and he hasn't had a lot to show for it, but I like the position he's in," Wedge said. "And quite frankly, we're just trying to figure out what we want to do in that spot right now. I feel like we've got a lot of guys that are just on the cusp of really starting to make some progress with their individual approaches. But until we get these guys a lot more consistent, we're going to have to continue to try things."

Saunders is third among the team's starters in slugging percentage at .409 and on-base percentage at .305 after a hot stretch last month when he was lacing extra-base hits on a regular basis. That power has disappeared in the last few weeks, though he does have hits in five of his last six games. He says he feels like he's seeing the ball very well right now and is on the verge of re-establishing his power.

Batting second won't change anything, he said.

"In the Minors, I hit second quite a bit," Saunders said. "I've led off. I hit pretty much everywhere in the Minor Leagues, but extensively in the two-hole in the upper Minors. This will be my first time in the big leagues.

"But coming in here, I saw my name there and I didn't feel shocked or anything. I feel like I've been having good at-bats as of late, and I'm not going to change my approach just because I got changed in the lineup. It's not going to happen, but even if I was batting leadoff, I wouldn't change my approach. I'm not going to turn into a guy who sees 10 pitches. I'm going to stay aggressive, look for my pitch and try to do damage."