Saunders back in lineup, but not in leadoff

Saunders back in lineup, but not in leadoff

MINNEAPOLIS -- Right fielder Michael Saunders returned to the starting lineup Friday after being limited to a pair of pinch-hit appearances over the previous four games after hyperextending his left knee last Saturday.

"I'm good," Saunders said. "I'm ready to go."

But with rookie center fielder James Jones now entrenched in the leadoff positoin, Saunders was slotted into the No. 2 spot in the order for the first time this season by manager Lloyd McClendon.

Saunders led off 12 times earlier this season and has led off 40 times in his career, while batting second 39 times prior to Friday's series opener with the Twins. There's some benefit to batting behind the speedy Jones, he said, but only to an extent.

"I think the general consensus is you might see more fastballs [hitting second]," Saunders said. "I think it really depends on the pitcher. I believe that how pitchers have been getting you out is how you're going to get pitched. Their main concern is getting the guy out at the plate and however they feel comfortable doing that is how you're going to get pitched.

"Now that being said, a guy like Jones gets on first base and he's a threat to steal, you might see another fastball here or there. But I really feel like they're going to pitch to their strength and your weaknesses."

The guy hitting third, however, also plays into the equation. And Saunders smiled when it was mentioned that Robinson Cano was now directly behind him in the order.

"He might let you see some more fastballs," Saunders said. "They're not going to walk you with him behind you."

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.