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Preview: Seattle Mariners (5-7) vs. Texas Rangers (7-4)

Joe Saunders starts tonight.
Joe Saunders starts tonight.

After two blowout losses to Houston and a painful defeat on Thursday against the Rangers, the Mariners needed a win last night, and they got it despite daunting circumstances. Facing Yu Darvish and playing an outfield devoid of Opening Day starters, the M's rode a strong performance from Hisashi Iwakuma to a 3-1 victory. Tonight, they'll try and make it two wins in a row. Joe Saunders is set to pitch against Alexi Ogando, who, in his return to the rotation, has posted a sparkling 0.77/2.07/3.05 ERA/FIP/xFIP thus far.

Because there's nothing more appropriate to talk about in a Seattle Mariners-Texas Rangers preview than the Toronto Blue Jays, I thought it was worth passing along that Munenori Kawasaki has reportedly been called up to the big leagues. I'll be honest: I thought 2012 would be his only big league season, but an injury to Jose Reyes has given the shortstop another shot.

This also means that Kawasaki is reunited with Casper Wells in Toronto. Kawasaki is presumably happy about this:


Speaking of Wells, you might recall that the Mariners designated him for assignment about two weeks ago. Out of options and left off the 25-man roster, Wells was DFA'd and ultimately sent to Toronto. People were generally varying degrees of upset about the move, and it mostly led to consternation about Jason Bay and or Raul Ibanez.

However, there was a way the Mariners could have hung on to Wells, even with Bay and Ibanez. Had the Mariners not sent Wells to Triple-A last season, he would have had another option year left, and could have been shuttled between Seattle and Tacoma this season. A look back reveals how needless his demotion last season really was. A quick timeline:

May 22nd: Wells started in left field against Texas. In the bottom of the first, on an unseasonably cold night in Seattle, Josh Hamilton caught a rocket hit by Wells at the fence in deep left center field. Had it been warmer, or had Safeco had 2013's dimensions, Wells's blast would have been a grand slam. Instead, it was out number three. Wells finished the game 0-3, dropping his triple-slash to .213/.302/.362.

May 23rd: Alex Liddi, starting in left field for the second time in his career, went 2-3 with a grand slam.

The Mariners wanted -- I'll avoid saying 'needed' -- to make room on the roster for Miguel Olivo after the game. With three reserves capable of playing outfield already on the team, and with the M's frustratingly wedded to Chone Figgins, either Liddi or Wells was going to be the odd man out. The M's tabbed Wells, sending him to Tacoma.

June 13th: In a roster move with a number of moving parts, Wells returned to Seattle, essentially in exchange for Liddi.

Ultimately, the Mariners burned Wells's last option year to keep Alex Liddi on the roster for three weeks. How did Liddi do over that time?

Not well. The Italian started just six games, struck out 17 times in 30 trips to the plate, and posted a .207 OPS. Yes, OPS. Liddi had started the season hot, but a sudden BABIP correction and a growing strike out rate exposed his raw approach for what it was, and the M's sent Liddi back to the minors until rosters expanded in September. Whatever you think of Wells, it's pretty frustrating that the M's lost him so they could watch Liddi strike out for three weeks.

On that happy note, go Mariners!

Time: 6:10 PDT
Location: Safeco Field
Television: ROOT Sports