Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — In his 10-year career, Jason Bay has been penciled into the starting lineup 1,178 times.
But never once in all those games with the San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox and New York Mets was his name ever atop the batting order at the leadoff spot.
That streak ended on Friday night when Bay found himself at the top of the Mariners batting order against the Los Angeles Angels.
With Angels’ lefty C.J. Wilson on the mound, Mariners manager Eric Wedge went with a lineup featuring mostly switch-hitters and right-handed hitters like Bay.
For his career, Wilson has been tough on lefties, who are hitting .204 with a .573 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), while righties are hitting .247 with a .710 OPS.
“He’s been really tough on us,” Wedge said.
The only lefty swingers in the lineup were Endy Chavez and Kyle Seager. Those two have been hitting No. 1 and 2 in the lineup the last few days, but Wedge decided to split them up with Wilson on the mound.
“I didn’t want to start the game with two lefties against Wilson,” Wedge said. “Jason sees a lot of pitches. He has pretty good recognition. He’s an experienced guy. We had him there in spring training a little bit, which is why you do those things in spring training.”
The handful of Cactus League games that Bay started in the spring taught him one thing about batting first in the order — it’s no different than any other spot.
“I don’t really change much,” he said. “Whether I’m leading off or batting eighth, I’m still doing the same thing. It looks different on the scorecard, but I don’t take it any differently.”
So it’s not that big of a deal?
“A lot is made of it, cause it’s up there in print on the scorecard — especially when you don’t do it very often,” he said. “It looks really different. But to the guys in here and anyone that gets in those spots, we know it doesn’t change much.”
Saunders almost ready?
Michael Saunders will be spending his weekend in Las Vegas, but it’s not a vacation.
The Mariners outfielder began his rehab assignment on Friday night with the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers. Saunders, who is on the disabled list with a right shoulder strain, was the designated hitter and batting leadoff against the Las Vegas 51s.
When will he return from it?
“The earliest would be Monday,” Wedge said. “We’ll have to see how he feels tonight and how he feels tomorrow.”
The plan is to have Saunders DH on Friday and Saturday and then play a full game in center field on Sunday.
“That would be the best case scenario,” Wedge said.
While Michael Saunders joined the Rainiers in Vegas, top pitching prospect Danny Hultzen left the team and flew home to Seattle. Hultzen was examined Friday by Mariners medical director Dr. Edward Khalfayan, and diagnosed with a left rotator cuff strain and tendonitis.
Hultzen was scratched from his start on Thursday when he had trouble getting loose prior to the game.
The treatment for the strain will be rest and rehabilitation. He is expected to miss about two weeks.
In four starts this season, Hultzen is 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA. He has 25 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings pitched.