TORONTO -- Interim manager Daren Brown has spent 10 years in the Mariners' organization -- four managing Triple-A Tacoma.
He has sent a lot of players to the big leagues over his decade-long tenure, but since taking over Seattle's managerial reins Aug. 9, he has only recently been given the opportunity to give his former Minor League students their first start in the Major Leagues.
On Thursday in Toronto, outifielder Gregg Halman and infielder Matt Mangini were in the Mariners' starting lineup, participating in their first big league ballgame.
Mangini was 1-for-4, collecting his first big league hit off Jays closer Kevin Gregg in the ninth inning, and Halman was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in a 1-0 loss to the Jays.
It was a special moment for Brown, who coached both players just over a month ago in Triple-A.
"A little different but I still have that sense," Brown said. "I don't know if you'd say proud of them, but I think it's from an organizational standpoint, these guys have come through the organization, [and] they've made a lot of stops at different clubs. I think them stepping on a big league field is a testament to a lot of our Minor League coaches that have put a lot of work into these guys -- from Rookie ball to Class A, to Double-A, to Tacoma.
"I know about Tacoma, but I also know there has been a lot of work done to get these guys here. To see them stepping on a big league field and playing their first game, I'm excited to see them. As always, you're hoping that you're putting them in a position that they can have some success today, and that's what I'm looking for from both of them."
Brown had mentioned Wednesday that he would like to give the two rookies time to get acclimated with the club. Albeit quicker than expected, the right scenario presented itself on Thursday.
"The couple of guys in [Justin] Smoak and [Mike] Carp that have been here before, I think that I'm comfortable with throwing them in there the first day," Brown said. "With kids coming here for the first time I think it's important to watch and observe, and go through batting practice the first day. They traveled in here [Wednesday] and took batting practice.
"Some of it is just the way things worked out. You got [Russell] Branyan down, [Franklin Gutierrez] down, two guys we'd like to have in the lineup. They're not an option today, so it gives these guys an opportunity."
Saunders' homer builds confidence
TORONTO -- Lost in the madness that saw Mariners second baseman Jose Lopez launch three home runs in Wednesday's 6-3 victory over the Blue Jays was a critical two-run home run from 23-year old outfielder Michael Saunders.
Not only was the second-inning home run -- that landed well beyond the fence in deep center field -- a key to the victory, but according to interim manager Daren Brown it was also an important step in the right direction for the developing Saunders.
"It was good for him," Brown said. "I know he hit it a long way to that part of the park, but he's got that type of power -- I've seen it. Hopefully this is a little confidence builder for him."
In 261 at-bats with the Mariners this season, the left-handed hitter has hit a respectable nine home runs. But with his last long ball coming nearly two months ago and his batting average hovering around the .200 mark, Brown thought it was just a matter of time before Saunders -- who was in the No. 5 spot in the batting order on Thursday -- started to produce.
Brown added that with the heavy influx of youngsters as of Sept. 1, seeing those in a similar position succeed at the big league level can spawn rabid optimism.
"We talk about some of the young kids we have here that have struggled a little bit," Brown said. "I think anything like that is something that we could build confidence around."
Designated hitter Russell Branyan and outfielder Franklin Gutierrez were not in the lineup for Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Both Branyan and Gutierrez have been dealing with a bout of the flu. For Gutierrez, it marked his third consecutive game out of the lineup. Branyan, on the other hand, has been absent from the batting order since Sept. 15, as he was also coping with a sore lower back, in addition to the recent illness. Interim manager Daren Brown expects the two players to be 100 percent when the Mariners travel to Tampa Bay for Friday's game at Tropicana Field.
James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.