ANAHEIM -- While rookies Alex Liddi and Steve Delabar drew much of the attention with their first-time callups to the Mariners on Tuesday, outfielder Michael Saunders is the one newcomer who figures to see the most significant playing time in the final three weeks of the season.
Saunders, who struggled through a tough first two months with the Mariners this year before being sent to Triple-A Tacoma, started in center field in his first game back on Tuesday.
He wasn't in manager Eric Wedge's lineup on Wednesday for the final game of the Angels series, but with Franklin Gutierrez out for the season with a strained oblique muscle and Casper Wells temporarily sidelined after taking a pitch off his elbow, Saunders will get some chances to show what he worked on over the past 10 weeks with the Rainiers.
"It's definitely good to be back," Saunders said after Tuesday's 2-1 victory over the Angels. "It's unfortunate what happened to Franklin. Wedge told me I'll be getting some playing time in center, and I'm grateful for that opportunity."
After batting just .168 with the Mariners in his initial stint, Saunders hit .288 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs in 64 games with Tacoma.
"I went down to Triple-A and pretty much had to revamp my whole approach, tinker with some mechanical issues and everything," he said. "Mainly I just gained some confidence and trust in my approach.
"I took some things I was working on with [Mariners hitting coach] Chris Chambliss up here and did some stuff with their hitting coach, Alonzo Powell, down there, and was really excited with the results. It was necessary to go down and do a few things. One of the biggest was just getting confidence in my new approach. I'm excited about it."
Saunders said he was rotating back and forth with Greg Halman in center and left field, with both players playing about 4-5 games before alternating back. He played center field in Tacoma's finale on Monday.
"It's not like I've been out for a while and just got thrown back in there," he said. "I'm excited about the opportunity, and hopefully I'll get a little playing time up here and can try to take advantage of it."
Wedge said he wants to see Saunders carry his new approach over into games now.
"I think he's been better," said Wedge. "I want to see him up here and watch him in batting practice and games when he does get a chance to play. I thought he did a nice job in the outfield last night and got a good jump on a stolen base he would have had; he also drew a walk. I want to see him a little more, but he'd been better down there."
Italian third baseman Liddi makes Majors debut
ANAHEIM -- Rookie third baseman Alex Liddi became the first player born and raised in Italy to play in the Major Leagues when he made his debut on Wednesday night in the Mariners' series finale against the Angels.
Liddi, 23, was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Tuesday and manager Eric Wedge penciled him into the lineup for the first time on Wednesday. He batted ninth.
"I was thinking about what I wanted to do, and it was either going to be today or this weekend," said manager Eric Wedge. "So I figured, let's just get him in there and knock that first one out."
Liddi said that the previous 24 hours had been hectic, between flying to Anaheim to join the team and having his phone blowing up with messages from friends. But he tried to keep his routine as normal as possible on Wednesday.
He didn't know that he would be playing until he got to the ballpark in the afternoon.
"I came in and saw the lineup and was really happy," he said. "We'll see what happens."
His initial feeling?
"Excited," he said. "Probably nervous a little bit, but normal. I'll have to try to be calm. It'll be a big impression for me. I'll try to calm down and do what I need to do."
Liddi hit .259 with 30 home runs, 104 RBIs and a Pacific Coast League-leading 121 runs scored with the Rainiers.
Six Italians have previously played in the Majors, the last being Reno Bertoia in 1962. But those six all moved to North America as kids.
Liddi grew up in Sanremo, Italy, and will be the first graduate of the MLB European Academy to play in the Majors.
His debut is thus awaited by a following in Italy, as well as his own circle of supporters.
"The last day a lot of people tried to get hold of me, all my friends and family," Liddi said. "It's been good to see that people care about me and want me to do good."
Niehaus sculpture to be unveiled on Sept. 16
ANAHEIM -- In addition to two series against playoff-contending teams, Mariners fans will have a couple extra things to look forward to in the upcoming homestand, including the unveiling of the Dave Niehaus sculpture on the center-field concourse at Safeco Field.
The Niehaus statue, which was constructed by sculptor Lou Cella at the Rotblatt Amrany Fine Art Studio just outside Chicago, will be installed at Safeco Field on Thursday, Sept. 15, the last remaining off-day of the season.
The sculpture will be unveiled for fans on Friday, Sept. 16, prior to the opening game of a three-game series with the Rangers.
The homestand also includes four games with the Royals this Thursday through Sunday, followed by a series with the Yankees next Monday through Wednesday.
Saturday's game against the Royals will be the annual tribute to the contributions of Latin American players. Seattle will wear jerseys that say "Marineros" across the front.
The Mariners will then join all of Major League Baseball on Sunday in paying tribute to first responders of the September 11th attacks with a National Day of Remembrance on the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
About 3,000 tickets have been distributed to police, fire and emergency personnel and their families from around the greater Puget Sound area for that game. And members of the Seattle Police Department, Fire Department and EMT will be introduced on the field before the game and honored for their service to the community.
Among the tributes will be a reading by Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs of Jack Buck's "We Shall Overcome" poem, which Dave Niehaus recited during previous 9/11 observances at Safeco Field.