SEATTLE -- Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon obviously likes what he has seen from James Jones in the leadoff role, as the rookie center fielder was back at the top of the lineup for a third straight day in Monday's series opener with the Rays.
Jones went 2-for-7 with a double, two walks and a run scored in his first two games leading off over the weekend against the Royals and was hitting .389 (7-for-18) in his first eight appearances overall.
"He's a high-energy kid," McClendon said. "He brings a lot of intangibles to the table, not to mention his speed and defense. He gets after it pretty good and I think he energizes the rest of the guys."
Michael Saunders did well in the leadoff spot for a stretch, but has gone 1-for-20 with two walks over his last seven games and is now sidelined with a hyper-extended knee.
"He's getting better," McClendon said. "It's sore, but I don't think it's anything that is going to [disabled list] him as we speak right now. The doctors just feel it'll take a few days until he can get back out there. He's a little tender, even to swing."
So Jones will continue to learn on the job and play on an everyday basis for now. McClendon knows the leadoff role isn't easy for a rookie, but feels Jones has the skill set to fill an obvious need on his team. And he'll get plenty of coaching on how to approach different pitchers as he goes.
"We just want him to do what he does, be the same guy he was in Triple-A," McClendon said. "And we'll try to guide him through it. If he's facing a guy we think has shaky command, then he needs to be a little more patient. If it's a strike thrower, then he needs to be a little more aggressive.
"If it's a strike-thrower who has an out pitch, it makes no sense to take pitches and get behind in the count. If it's a guy that is struggling and has command problems, maybe you need to see a few more. We'll help guide him through that and eventually that's something he'll learn on his own."
Seager thriving on Safeco Field home cooking
SEATTLE -- Kyle Seager said he was feeling closer to full health on Monday after returning to the lineup Sunday from the flu bug that has also hit several teammates in the last two weeks. That's good news for the Mariners. But the even better news might be the healthy numbers Seager has put up while hitting at Safeco Field so far this year.
Seager says he has always felt good in his home park, yet he has always put up much better numbers on the road until this season. In Seager's first three years in the Majors, he hit .289 with 38 home runs on the road compared to .228 with 13 home runs at home.
But while it's early, Seager has flipped those numbers completely in 2014 with a .279 average and six home runs in 13 games at Safeco vs. .218 with no home runs in 21 away games.
Even coming back from a two-day layoff with the flu during which he dropped six pounds, Seager hit his sixth home run in his past six home games in Sunday's 9-7 loss to the Royals.
"I'm definitely not going to give them back, that's for sure," Seager said with a smile prior to Monday's series opener with the Rays. "Homers are weird. Sometimes you get five in a week, then you'll go three weeks without any. So it's just one of those things where I got on that little streak here, so it worked out well."
And while he's always downplayed his road-home splits -- saying that's just baseball -- the 26-year-old third baseman acknowledges it's nice getting good early results at the home park.
"Absolutely," he said. "Anytime you do it is good. But I've always been comfortable here. It's a beautiful park and I feel like I've always seen the ball well. It obviously gets big out there in the gaps, especially, but if you can aim more toward the lines it flies better."
As for the flu bug that first bit Mike Zunino and then Felix Hernandez before catching Seager on Friday? He acknowledged he was still a bit tired Sunday, but is close to 100 percent again now.
"Maybe I was a little bit sluggish, but I felt fine," he said. "Especially during the game I was ready to go. It always makes it seems like you feel better [when you hit a home run]. But I felt better and the trainers took care of me and Julie had to put up with me when I got home. So it all worked out. We got through it."
Morrison takes step forward in hamstring rehab
SEATTLE -- Outfielder/designated hitter Logan Morrison did some running drills and took batting practice Monday for the first time since re-injuring his strained right hamstring two weeks ago and said he's finally progressing after nearly a month on the 15-day disabled list.
Morrison hurt the hamstring again the last time he tried running the bases on April 29, so he was cautious in his approach Monday as he did some light work in the outfield grass at Safeco Field.
"It's coming along slowly, but it felt fine," Morrison said. "I was a little nervous just to get back out there, hoping it doesn't tear again, but it went well. It was just straight ahead, backpedal, side shuffle … pretty simple and generic. But it was good to be back out there."
Morrison has also been unable to swing while his leg healed, but he hit Monday in the cage, took batting practice and did some work at first base in the pregame session.
Manager Lloyd McClendon said Morrison would accompany the team on the upcoming road trip to Minnesota and Texas, so he could work out with the club and take part in simulated game action when James Paxton starts throwing against live hitters in his own rehab program.
Morrison will take Tuesday off, do some more work on Wednesday and then work back-to-back days in Minnesota on Friday and Saturday.
"The plan is to do some sim games and then after those, I'll be ready to go play in Triple-A and then be back," Morrison said. "Which would be good. It's been awhile and I'm ready to get after it."
Morrison, acquired from the Marlins in a December trade for Carter Capps, played in just eight games before getting hurt and was batting .150 (3-for-20) when he hurt the hamstring in Texas.
• Pitchers James Paxton (strained lat) and Taijuan Walker (shoulder impingement) both were fine on Monday after throwing bullpen sessions Sunday, according to manager Lloyd McClendon, and are on schedule to throw again Wednesday. Both are on the 15-day disabled list, with Paxton having now thrown two bullpens and Walker one as they work their way toward simulated games and eventually Minor League rehab stints before rejoining the club.
• Fernando Rodney was tied for first in the American League with 11 saves going into Monday's series opener against his former Rays team. Rodney acknowledged having extra motivation against the Rays.
"They didn't sign me back," said Rodney, who saved 85 games for Tampa Bay the past two years. "Now Seattle gave me a chance and I'm going to show them I'm ready to continue in that role."
• Left fielder Dustin Ackley hit three home runs in three consecutive plate appearances on Saturday and Sunday, matching his home run total from his previous 58 games dating back to last season.