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Mariners focus on timing in first live BP

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- After more than a week of having pitchers throw bullpen sessions without hitters in the box, the Mariners on Thursday began live batting practice, to predictable results.

With hitters just getting their timing down, the first few days of live BP usually result in few swings at the plate and more of a focus on tracking pitches. But some of the Mariners, particularly the younger players, took their hacks as 13 pitchers got their first live mound work.

"It's more for the pitchers," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "I tell the guys, look, sometimes tracking is just as good as swinging. Obviously when you're seeing live pitching for the first time, it can be a little tough.

"I think you see veteran guys do more tracking. The younger kids are more gung-ho, and they go after it a little more. But it's tough. There's no adrenaline. They deal with it the best they can, do some tracking, get the feet down, make sure the hands are in good position."

But some hitters did jump right in and start swinging, while others like outfielder Michael Saunders unleashed a couple of selective cuts.

"I took a few swings today," Saunders said. "That's the only way for me to know where my timing's at. I get a feel for where the pitcher is, and if he's around the zone, then I'm more comfortable taking a few hacks and seeing where I'm at. I have to start somewhere and I can adjust from there."

Several returning pitchers -- Tom Wilhelmsen, Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan and Lucas Luetge -- were among Thursday's group, which also included several non-roster invitees. The rest of the staff, except for Felix Hernandez and Taijuan Walker, will throw Friday.

Hernandez and Walker are on a slightly slower schedule, and both on Thursday threw their second bullpen sessions of the spring.

"They both felt great," McClendon said.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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