SEATTLE -- Mariners center fielder Michael Saunders has said for two seasons now that he wants to attack the baseball, after struggling through his first few years in the Majors. And that was never more evident than Monday when he ripped the second pitch he saw into the right-field seats leading off the game against Baltimore's Zach Britton.
The home run came in his first at-bat after coming off the disabled list with a sprained right shoulder that caused him to miss 17 games.
"I tried to make sure I picked up where I left off," Saunders said before Tuesday's second game of the series. "I was feeling good before I got hurt. Like I said, I vowed to stay aggressive last year. I vowed to stay aggressive this year. If I get a pitch to hit, I'm going to be taking a hack at it."
Britton gave Saunders something to hit with a 1-0 fastball.
"It was good," Saunders said. "I saw a fastball right out of the chute. I think it was more of a get-me-over strike one with the game just starting because after that he started throwing me all sinkers."
Saunders was quick to acknowledge that he wasn't the big Saunders story in that game, however, after Joe Saunders pitched a complete-game four-hitter in the 6-2 win.
"The leadoff hitter tries to set the tone, but I think the tone was set by Saunders, the other Saunders," he said. "He pitched an incredible game. It was fun to see his ball move from center last night."
Ryan eager to continue delivering with bat
SEATTLE -- Hits have been few and RBIs even more rare in April for Brendan Ryan, so the Mariners shortstop reacted with a big fist pump after his sharp single to right field drove in a run in the sixth inning in Monday's 6-2 win over the Orioles.
The hit was just his third in 32 at-bats since April 12. And the RBI certainly was welcomed by a guy who'd totaled just three in his first 22 games of the season.
"I don't think it's anything more than obvious to say I'm grinding," said Ryan, who carried a .154 average into Tuesday night's game. "I'm not looking for pity or anything, I'm just trying to get this thing righted. I can do a lot better. The at-bats have been getting better."
Ryan struck out in a fourth-inning opportunity with runners at second and third, so he told teammate Jason Bay he'd love another shot at that situation in his next at-bat. And sure enough, manager Eric Wedge asked Robert Andino to sacrifice runners up in the sixth and Ryan came through this time.
"It was a lot of relief there," he said. "Putting the time and effort in, it's nice for that to pay off. It's been a battle, but it's still real early. I think everything should be where I want it to be at the end if I keep battling and putting the time in."
Ryan was back in the lineup at shortstop on Tuesday, but Wedge reiterated that Andino would start Wednesday and will continue to play more in that rotation. Wedge was encouraged by Ryan's RBI rip, however.
"That's big," Wedge said. "He beats himself up. It's Groundhog Day with that. Hopefully at some point in time, in his lifetime, he'll get beyond that. But that was a big hit and you know what, less is more for him up there. When he's under control and quiet with the bat, he has a pretty good swing."
Stearns fills in as third-base coach on short notice
SEATTLE -- With Jeff Datz recovering from medical tests on his recently diagnosed cancer, Minor League catching coordinator John Stearns filled in again as Seattle's third-base coach Tuesday night against the Orioles.
Stearns' only previous Major League experience as a third-base coach was in 2000-01 with the Mets, but he's spent another 10 years on the job in the Minors, including as recently as four seasons ago.
To get him re-acclimated, the Mariners sent him to Class A High Desert on Saturday to coach third for a game, then he joined the club Monday in Seattle, initially expecting to just watch through the rest of the homestand before replacing Datz on the upcoming road trip.
But three hours before game time on Monday, he was told Datz wasn't feeling well and Stearns was in the game.
"I said, 'Wow, I don't even know the signs,'" Stearns said with a smile on Tuesday after spending the past 24 hours studying. "You can't just learn those signs in an hour up here."
Stearns said he wasn't put in any difficult situations Monday and felt better heading into Tuesday's contest. But he noted the reason he was getting his latest Major League shot wasn't a good one.
"It's very unfortunate," Stearns said. "It's not about John Stearns coming up here. This is about me coming here to hold the fort and us getting Jeff Datz well and standing behind him and building him up as much as we can. That's my goal. I don't expect to be here all year, we want Datzy to be well. However long he needs to be out, I'll try to do as good a job as he's already done and established here."
Manager Eric Wedge said Stearns likely would work Wednesday's game as well and then the situation will be decided on a day-to-day basis. Datz told the team he'd been diagnosed with cancer on Saturday but has yet to reveal publicly what type of the disease he's facing.
• Outfielder Corey Patterson signed a Minor League contract with the Mariners on Tuesday and has been sent to Arizona for extended spring workouts. The 12-year Major League veteran spent last season playing Triple-A ball for the Brewers and hit .251 with 10 homers and 18 stolen bases for Nashville. Patterson, 33, was in camp with the Mariners in 2010.
"He's a guy with some experience and we've seen a lot of over the years," said manager Eric Wedge. "He's looking for another opportunity to play, so we'll take a look at him."
• The Mariners have had the fewest off-days in the Majors this year, getting just one in the first month. But after finishing the Orioles series on Wednesday, they'll get four days off through May 13.