SEATTLE -- Michael Saunders was out of the lineup for a third straight game on Tuesday as the Mariners outfielder continues to recover from a hyperextended left knee.
Saunders said the injury, which occurred in the fourth inning of Saturday's 3-1 win over the Royals, isn't serious and he's ready to play when possible.
"I'm doing everything pregame as usual," Saunders said prior to Tuesday's contest with the Rays. "It's a little stiff, but I'm available to pinch-hit and we'll see how I'm feeling tomorrow. We'll take it day by day, but I'm anxious to get back in there and start going again."
Manager Lloyd McClendon said he'd like to steer away from using Saunders through the Rays series, which would then give him an extra day's rest with the team traveling Thursday before opening a five-game road trip to Minnesota and Texas.
"He's getting better," McClendon said. "He's still sore and from what I was told, he's going to be sore for a couple days. But he's able to get out and do things if needed."
Saunders was injured when his feet came out from under him when he hit some loose turf while chasing a ball down the right-field line and he bent the knee as he tried to catch himself.
"It's unfortunate, but it happens," he said. "It could have been worse."
Consistent at-bats generating confidence for Romero
SEATTLE -- Rookie right fielder Stefen Romero continues to get increased playing time as he was in the starting lineup for a fifth straight game Tuesday night against the Rays.
Romero went 3-for-5 with a home run, double and three RBIs in Seattle's 12-5 victory on Monday. Coupled with Michael Saunders' hyperextended knee injury, Romero's increasing production is making it easy for manager Lloyd McClendon to stay with the 25-year-old from Tucson, Ariz.
And that consistent playing time in turn is helping Romero feel more comfortable at the plate, as he's gone 4-for-7 with four runs and three RBIs in his past two starts.
"Definitely," said Romero. "The more consistent at-bats you get and more back-to-back at-bats you get day in and day out, you feel a sense of comfortablity and get in a routine every day. Luckily that's what it's been for me."
Romero started almost exclusively against left-handed pitchers early in the season, but has received more chances against righties recently and actually has a higher on-base plus slugging percentage against righties (.733) than lefties (.682).
McClendon said increased time has benefitted the youngster, but he'll continue to pick his spots as to when to play and sit the former Oregon State standout.
"I think the fact we've stayed away from some matchups that probably weren't so favorable for him has helped," McClendon said. "But probably the biggest thing is when he's in there, he's giving you some positive results, so that breeds confidence. I think he's feeling good about where he is right now.
"I don't think he's a platoon guy. You look at his Minor League numbers and he drove in 75 last year [at Triple-A Tacoma]. So he's hit both right- and left-handers in the Minor Leagues. I don't view him as a strict platoon guy."
For Romero, any playing time is good at this point as he adjusts to his first season in the big leagues.
"At first I was a little uncomfortable and didn't have a consistent routine," he said. "I kind of had an idea when I was playing, especially against left-handed starters. I had a good chance I'd start those games. And now since Saundo is banged up a little bit, I'm in there a little more and it gives me a little more opportunity to stay consistent."
Hart's tough luck leads to pair of bizarre singles
SEATTLE -- Mariners designated hitter Corey Hart easily could have had a home run and double in Monday's 12-5 win over the Rays, but instead ended up with a pair of singles on two unusual plays.
Hart roped a first-inning line drive that looked like a home run to right field, with the ball glancing off the very top of the yellow line on the top of the fence as a fan reached forward to catch it. Thinking the ball had hit a railing right behind the fence, the nine-year veteran jogged into second base -- only to have the Rays relay the ball in and tag him as he tried to slide late into the bag.
He wound up with an RBI single on the play instead of a two-run home run. Then in the third inning, Hart laced a shot to deep center with runners on first and second and was steaming into second with an apparent double when he realized the lead runner -- rookie James Jones -- had tagged up and nearly been crossed in the basepaths by Robinson Cano as he rounded second.
The speedy Jones reversed course and wound up scoring on the play before center fielder Desmond Jennings could get the relay in, but Hart turned around and sprinted back to first when he saw the confusion in front of him and again wound up with an unusually long RBI single.
"In different situations, it might have mattered more," Hart said. "But in that game, just getting the RBI and getting on base was the main thing. They were both kind of funny situations. I thought the first one was gone. The fans were giving me confidence and then I was just begging for it more than anything. But it's all good."
Hart had never seen two players hit the yellow line atop the fence on back-to-back shots as he and Cano did in the first, coming inches from home runs to left and right field.
"Hey, me and him need to do more pushups, I guess," Hart said.
Jones knew he cost his teammate a double on the second play and vowed to learn from it.
"That's a baserunning mistake on me," Jones said. "I have to extend out [from second] and I'll learn from that next time. Jennings looked like he had a tough time getting to it, too, so that should have been a good read for me to extend out and score on that. I'll make an adjustment next time."
• Outfielders James Jones and Stefen Romero combined to score six runs in the top two spots of the order in Monday's 12-5 win, the first time in Mariners history a pair of rookies each scored three or more runs in the same game.
• The Mariners hit three home runs in both Sunday and Monday's games, the first time since June 2-3, 2011 they have hit a trio of bombs in back-to-back outings at Safeco Field.