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Saunders returns and a new-look lineup

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Michael Saunders is back with the Mariners after a strong showing in the World Baseball Classic. (Shannon Drayer)

By Shannon Drayer

The Mariners are back at work today after the off day yesterday. Michael Saunders is back in camp but not in the lineup as Eric Wedge gives him an extra day before getting him a start. From the sounds of it, Saunders got everything he wanted but the championship out of the WBC experience.

"Unbelievable experience," he said at his locker this morning. "I am so happy I got to be a part of something like that."

He said there was no question that he was locked, in going 8 for 11 with seven RBIs and picking up pool MVP honors. Because of an injury to Brett Lawrie he was moved up in the order. Not only did he take over for Lawrie but he became "the guy" for Team Canada, something he hopes he can do with his team.

"It's got me ready. I feel like I could start the season right now and be ready," he said. "What I had for those games is the attitude I need to have on a daily basis come season time and I think that is the biggest thing I learned from it."

As for the brawl with team Mexico he said he didn't even see teammate Oliver Perez in the scrum but he was looking for him when he arrived in the clubhouse this morning.

"I'm going to give him a big hug," he said with a laugh.

Saunders said that both sides did what they needed to do and that it is now water under the bridge. Still, it is something he will never forget.

"It's certainly the biggest baseball brawl I ever have been a part of," he said. "I am sure it was entertaining to watch. And hey, we made Hockey Night in Canada with Don Cherry!"

On to the lineup:

Bay 9
Ackley 4
Morales 3
Smoak DH
Thames 7
Montero 2
Miller 5
Morban 8
Ryan 6

Felix

Jason Bay is your leadoff hitter today. I chatted with Bay in the clubhouse and he told me that he has never hit leadoff in a regular-season game at the big-league level. One of the pleasant surprises about Bay has been that he runs well. I had noticed that earlier and then the standup triple Sunday confirmed it. This team is going to be hurting for speed of any kind with the likes of Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak, Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse, so this is great to see.

What is even more interesting about this lineup is that Ackley is in it and hitting second. It is very apparent that Wedge is trying to find the right spot for him and he will not hit leadoff this year solely out of default.

Another odd pairing and pleasant surprise: Smoak and Morlaes in the same lineup with Smoak the DH. Morales is a big lumbering guy but plays a nice first base. Smoak is better defensively, but Morales is better than expected and the ankle does not seem to be an issue. I think we could see more of him at first this year than originally expected.

Last note: If you missed "The Cactus League Report" last night you missed a good one. Jack Zduriencik led things off and shared with us a never told story about signing Felix to the new contract. Alvin Davis spent a segment with us and all I can say is the young Mariners that he is helping are in great hands. He will be a great asset to this organization. Lucas Luetge talked pitching and livestock, we got to know John Hicks and Andrew Carraway a bit better, Ryan Divish gave his thoughts on the team and we wrapped things up with a Rick Rizzs interview with Ken Griffey Jr.

The podcast can be found here.

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