Hart missed a week toward the end of Spring Training because of soreness in his right arm, which did not help his effort to regain his timing after he missed all of 2013 following two knee surgeries. He has hit .167 (3-for-18) with a home run this year.
The Mariners are off Monday prior to Tuesday's home debut against the Angels, so McClendon wanted to take advantage.
"It's a great opportunity to get him two days off, get him freshened up and ready for the home opener," McClendon said. "I think the light is starting to flick a little bit for him. You can see the hands starting to quicken up; he's starting to recognize breaking balls a little better. He's still not quite over the hump with the tissue issue with his bicep, but he's getting there. I just want to be careful with him and keep him moving forward. The opportunity to give him two days off just makes sense."
McClendon said the sore arm did not hinder Hart's throwing, just his swing, so that would not affect when he would play in right field. For now, McClendon has revolved Saunders, Morrison and rookie Stefen Romero in right, with Romero's use limited so far because the club has faced only two left-handed starters.
McClendon likes having Morrison's bat in the lineup against right-handers, bringing Saunders in for late-inning defense when both Morrison and Romero have started. Saunders replaced Morrison in the eighth inning of Saturday's 3-1 win and immediately caught a tough, low-sinking line drive.
Morrison immediately turned to McClendon in the dugout and told him he had made the right move.
"When Saunders caught that ball he said, 'That was one heck of a move, Skip, getting me out of there,'" McClendon said with a laugh. "But he's been fine. He plays the outfield a little better than I thought he would. I've been pleased with it. He'll be back out there."
As for Saunders?
"Michael is a tremendous defensive outfielder that can play all three positions," McClendon said. "There's a certain comfort with having him in the outfield. I'd be lying if I said if I had a chance to DH Morrison or Hart and play Michael in the outfield that I'd rather do it the other way around. He gives us the best defensive outfield to have him out there. But to this point, everything has worked pretty nicely for us."
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.