CLEVELAND -- In 200 career starts prior to Wednesday, Michael Saunders had never hit higher than fifth in a Major League lineup. But manager Eric Wedge penciled the young center fielder in second in the opening game of a two-game set against the Indians in his ongoing search for top-of-the-order answers.
Saunders is only batting .226 on the season and has struggled in the past few weeks after a strong start, but Wedge likes his recent approach at the plate and has been trying different players at the No. 2 spot.
"They've pitched him tough and he hasn't had a lot to show for it, but I like the position he's in," Wedge said. "And quite frankly, we're just trying to figure out what we want to do in that spot right now. I feel like we've got a lot of guys that are just on the cusp of really starting to make some progress with their individual approaches. But until we get these guys a lot more consistent, we're going to have to continue to try things."
Saunders is third among the team's starters in slugging percentage at .409 and on-base percentage at .305 after a hot stretch last month when he was lacing extra-base hits on a regular basis. That power has disappeared in the last few weeks, though he does have hits in five of his last six games. He says he feels like he's seeing the ball very well right now and is on the verge of re-establishing his power.
Batting second won't change anything, he said.
"In the Minors, I hit second quite a bit," Saunders said. "I've led off. I hit pretty much everywhere in the Minor Leagues, but extensively in the two-hole in the upper Minors. This will be my first time in the big leagues.
"But coming in here, I saw my name there and I didn't feel shocked or anything. I feel like I've been having good at-bats as of late, and I'm not going to change my approach just because I got changed in the lineup. It's not going to happen, but even if I was batting leadoff, I wouldn't change my approach. I'm not going to turn into a guy who sees 10 pitches. I'm going to stay aggressive, look for my pitch and try to do damage."
Carp scratched with stiff right shoulder
CLEVELAND -- Mariners left fielder Mike Carp was a late scratch from Wednesday's series opener against the Indians due to stiffness in his right shoulder that cropped up during pregame work.
Chone Figgins took Carp's place in the lineup.
Carp spent the first four weeks of the season on the disabled list after spraining his shoulder while diving for a ball in the Mariners' season opener against the A's in the Tokyo Dome.
Carp has played in 12 games since his return and is batting .139 with two home runs and five RBIs.
The Mariners said the stiffness in his shoulder was mild and he was available to pinch hit or play in the field in Wednesday's game, if needed.
Liddi earns a start at third base vs. Indians
CLEVELAND -- True to his word from a day earlier, manager Eric Wedge got Alex Liddi in the lineup Wednesday for a rare start against a right-handed pitcher. Liddi has primarily platooned against lefties in the first month, but the skipper said he's intent on getting the rookie more playing time.
The 23-year-old Italian has hit .293 with two home runs and five RBIs in 58 at-bats, but finding a spot in the lineup hasn't been easy since Kyle Seager is having an excellent season at third base.
But Wedge is working Liddi in left field and shortstop as well as first and third base in pregame drills and said he'll likely see time at those positions eventually.
"It's a long season," Wedge noted.
On Wednesday, he penciled Liddi in at third base and had Seager at designated hitter.
"He's a good young player with some damage-ability," Wedge said, referring to Liddi's power potential. "I don't want him to go up there and try to do too much, but if he goes up there and just is himself and hits, the rest of it will take care of itself. The damage will come along with that."
• The Mariners have played more road games than any other Major League team at this point, with Wednesday's outing in Cleveland their 24th road contest in 39 games. Only four other MLB teams -- Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Miami and Toronto -- have played as many as 20 road games. Three of those teams are currently at home, while the Mariners still have five games remaining on their current trip.
• Ichiro Suzuki's two hits on Tuesday in Boston moved past Ted Simmons into 97th place on the all-time list with 2,473. Next up is Fred McGriff in 96th with 2,490.
• The Indians started four former Mariners players in Wednesday's series opener -- Shin-Soo Choo in right field, Asdrubal Cabrera at short, Casey Kotchman at first and Jose Lopez at third.