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The Mariners had a new leadoff hitter on Saturday night.

For the first time this season, someone other than Abraham Almonte stepped into the batter’s box first for the Mariners.

Manager Lloyd McClendon decided late Friday night to make a change and penciled in Michael Saunders into the leadoff spot.

There were no revelations from McClendon as to exactly why he made the switch after sticking by Almonte for the first 22 games of the season.

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“Just tinkering,” McClendon said pregame. “Trying to get better. That’s all.”

So was there a specific reason? Like perhaps because Almonte’s on-base percentage was .263 and he’d struck out 33 times in 93 at-bats going into Saturday’s game?

“No, just on a whim,” he said. “ I just followed my gut. Just sat down, made out a lineup and said, ‘I’m going to lead Saunders off, and hit him second.’ ”

McClendon didn’t say the move was permanent. But what if Saunders were to get three hits in the game?

“I’ve always said that managers don’t make out the lineup, players do,” McClendon said. “If he gets three knocks there’s a pretty damn good chance he’ll be back in there tomorrow.”

McClendon was asked who made out this lineup then?

“I’m not sure,” he said, chuckling. “I think it was that third scotch. I don’t know.”

Maybe the third scotch has some magical power because Saunders hit a home run to lead off the game.

While this may seem like a big deal to fans, McClendon was matter of fact in discussing it any further.

“Look, I don’t have any magic answers,” he said. “I’m just searching. I’m just trying to spark the offense.”

Saunders said McClendon told him after Friday night’s game that he’d be leading off today and starting in the outfield.

He has enough experience at the leadoff spot to know what he wants to do. He’s made 28 starts at the top of the order.

“My preparation is going to stay the same,” Saunders said. “I think everyone has their own opinion on it. My answer is going to stay the same. I’m just going to try and put up a professional at-bat.

“Depending on the situation, you usually lead off the game once, and that’s your first at-bat. We’ve seen (Texas starter Colby) Lewis before. I’m not going to go up there and look to take pitches. I’m going to be selectively aggressive. And that was my mindset when I was leading off last year. My main goal is to get on base.”


Hisashi Iwakuma will throw five innings with a limit of around 80 pitches Sunday for Class AAA Tacoma in Las Vegas. McClendon wouldn’t confirm that Iwakuma would join the Mariners after that start. But if all goes well, that’s the expectation.

Corey Hart was hit in the knee Friday night by a pitch from Robbie Ross Jr. But McClendon said Hart checked out fine. It helps that he wears knee pads on his surgically repaired knees during games. “I think it got him on the pad,” McClendon said.

Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373


On Twitter: @RyanDivish

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