Whether the changes make a difference for their offense remains to be seen.
In Monday night's home opener, the Mariners face new AL West foe Houston and Philip Humber , who threw a perfect game in his last visit to Safeco Field a year ago.
After a seven-game road trip to open the season, the Mariners (3-4) will play their next 10 in Seattle, giving them plenty of opportunity to test out how their remodeled ballpark plays early in the season.
While there will be plenty of attention placed on the new video board that has been proclaimed to be the largest in baseball, most of the focus will be on the new dimensions of the playing field. After being one of the most unfriendly hitters' parks in baseball, the Mariners made drastic changes to the outfield in an effort to make the park fair to both hitters and pitchers.
The fences were brought in between 4 and 17 feet depending on the area of the outfield. The right field wall was not touched, but the extensive changes begin in right center field and stretch all the way into the left field corner.
The changes would seem to certainly benefit Seattle's offense. The Mariners hit an AL-worst 56 homers at home last season, but were tied for sixth in all of baseball with 93 homers on the road."The fences coming in doesn't mean we're going to hit more home runs than any other team," general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "That wasn't the reason for it. The reason for it was we felt was the psychological aspect of playing in a pitcher's park 81 times a year. Watching our kids go through that, and talking to players who have been here in the past, and their feelings about the ballpark. We wanted to create a fair ballpark. It's been well-publicized."
Through the first week of the season, the Mariners have shown that their offseason moves to bolster the offense should be able to take advantage of the smaller dimensions. No one has gotten off to a quicker start than Michael Morse , in his second stint with the organization. Morse has five homers, with four coming in Seattle's opening series against Oakland. He became the first Mariner to have four homers through the first four games of a season since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997."I think guys are just playing their game. I don't think anybody is playing over their abilities," Morse said. "Guys are comfortable up there. We had a good spring, and I think it carried over. We're just playing, and playing good baseball."
The Mariners had no luck against Humber (0-1, 1.59 ERA) last April 21, as he retired all 27 batters he faced in a 4-0 victory for the Chicago White Sox. Little went right for Humber over the rest of 2012, but the right-hander pitched well in his season debut, allowing a run and five hits in 5 2-3 innings in Wednesday's 4-0 loss to Texas.
The Mariners counter with Joe Saunders (0-1, 9.00), who will make his Seattle home debut and hopes to fare better than he did for most of the spring and in his first start Wednesday in Oakland. The left-hander was knocked around for four runs and seven hits in just four innings after a spring in which he gave up 20 hits and 15 earned runs in 11 2-3 innings."There's a little excitement for sure. There's only one home opener a year. It definitely will be exciting. Should be a good atmosphere. I'm looking forward to it," Saunders said. "Anytime you have a sellout crowd it definitely jazzes you up."You get the adrenaline flowing and you want to go out there and show them what you can do with a good performance and give them something to cheer about. Hopefully we play well. It should be a lot of fun."
Facing Houston should help Saunders bounce back.
The Astros (1-5) have plated nine runs and are batting .183 during a five-game losing streak. They've already totaled 74 strikeouts, the most through the first six games of a season since 1921."You've got to have a short-term memory," said Chris Carter , who has accounted for 11 strikeouts. "Just play day-to-day and not dwell on what happened last game."
Houston, which took two of three in its only trip to Seattle in 2004, embarks on a nine-game road trip against division opponents."Nobody is going to feel sorry for you," first-year manager Bo Porter said. "This business is major league baseball. The schedule that we have is the schedule that we're going to play."
|April 05, 2013||Travis Blackley||15-Day DL||Left shoulder strain|
|March 31, 2013||Alex White||60-Day DL||Right elbow strain|
|March 27, 2013||Fernando Martinez||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique|
|March 25, 2013||Josh Kinney||60-Day DL||Stress reaction, left shoulder|
|March 19, 2013||Brendan Ryan||Day-to-Day||Stiffness in neck|
SEATTLE (AP) -- Considering the hype and attention that comes with a home opener, Seattle manager Eric Wedge wanted a veteran to take the mound for the Mariners.
Joe Saunders ' career mark at Safeco Field certainly made him feel better, too.
Kendrys Morales drove in two runs in his Seattle home debut, Saunders rebounded from a rough first start to throw 6 1-3 shutout innings, and the Mariners debuted the new look of Safeco Field with a 3-0 win over the Houston Astros on Monday.
"Your home opener is always a big one and nice to see him go out there and set the tone and pitch and I've been really encouraged by his strength the first couple of outings," Wedge said. "His secondary stuff was obviously better tonight. Just did a great job."
Monday night brought an opportunity for the first look at Seattle's redesigned field dimensions and its new giant video screen.
After being one of the most unfriendly hitters' parks, the Mariners made changes to the outfield in an effort to make the park fair to both hitters and pitchers.
The fences were brought in between 4 and 17 feet depending on the area of the outfield, and how the park would play was the subject of plenty of pregame questions.
It's still a question after the new dimensions were barely threatened by either team.
Saunders (1-1) was a big reason why.
He allowed six hits and struck out five. Saunders improved to 7-0 all time at Safeco Field and dropped his ERA at the ballpark to 1.91 in 10 career starts.
It was an important and impressive rebound following a spring where he struggled and a first start in Oakland when Saunders had trouble gripping pitches and lasted just four innings.
"I thought my command was better. I was able to feel the ball a little bit better," Saunders said. "It was just a matter of telling yourself, `hey, we've got a lot of fans in the stands tonight, go out and put on a decent show and treat them to a win."'
It helped that Saunders was facing the Astros, who struck out 74 times in the first six games. Houston struck out eight times on Monday night, and only once got a runner to third base.
Brandon Barnes reached third following Ronny Cedeno 's two-out single in the fifth, but Saunders got Jose Altuve to ground into a force out to end the inning.
Saunders got help earlier in the game when Franklin Gutierrez made a diving catch in right-center field to rob Cedeno of at least a double leading off the third inning.
"As soon as he hit the ball I just went to go get it and the only chance that I have was to dive," Gutierrez said.
Carter Capps took over for Saunders and recorded four outs, using an improving slider to go with his fastball. Charlie Furbush got the final out of the eighth and Tom Wilhelmsen pitched a perfect ninth for his third save.
The offense came from Morales, who has multiple hits in three of the past four games. Morales snapped Seattle's 0-for-14 drought with runners in scoring position by chopping an RBI single in the first and added a two-out RBI double in the third, both off Houston starter Philip Humber (0-2). Michael Saunders scored each time.
Through an interpreter, Morales said he's trying to find an early groove after struggling in the season-opening series at Oakland.
"He's a very professional hitter, a smart hitter," Wedge said.
Humber was trying to match the perfect game he threw against the Mariners last season while with the Chicago White Sox.
Any thought of equaling that feat was gone after just one batter when Saunders led off with an opposite-field single. He then stole second on the next pitch and scored when Morales chopped his single over the glove of Cedeno to give Seattle an early lead.
Morales came through again in the third inning after Saunders reached on a bloop single that fell on the left-field foul line. Franklin Gutierrez struck out for the second out of the inning, but Morales lined Humber's pitch into the gap for his third double of the season.
Seattle added another run in the fifth when Wedge guessed correctly and Gutierrez dropped a perfect squeeze bunt to score Dustin Ackley .
"I think I probably could have kept it to maybe a one-run game. Saunders getting to second both times he scored was on me," Humber said. "Hopefully I do a better job holding runners next time."
Notes: Former Seattle pitcher Jamie Moyer threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Before the game, the 50-year-old said he has not officially retired. Moyer pitched 11 seasons in Seattle and made 10 starts last year for Colorado. ... Houston's J.D. Martinez left the game after popping out in the fourth inning. He was replaced by Rick Ankiel . ... Seattle had lost its past three home openers.