PEORIA, Ariz. -- After having pitchers throw strictly in bullpen sessions while hitters took batting practice against easy-tossing coaches the first five days of camp, the Mariners began live batting practice for the first time Monday.
As usual on the first day of live hitting, most batters just tracked the ball and rarely swung as they worked to see pitches and get their timing down. But a few players, including outfielder Michael Saunders, jumped right in and took some healthy hacks from the get-go.
Saunders said the condensed early schedule this year -- with Cactus League games already beginning Friday due to the impending World Baseball Classic -- has him on fast forward.
"I just heard today we're not doing any intrasquads since we're starting games earlier," Saunders said. "This is something I definitely need to take seriously to get the timing back as quick as possible. When you see live pitchers, you really know you're in Spring Training again. It was fun today."
As for being one of the few players swinging away?
"Everyone has their own routine," he said. "Today I tried to get as many swings off as I could. Anything around the zone, I try to swing. That's just my approach. I'm trying to figure out my own timing and the only way I'm able to do that is to swing it. I know a lot of other guys just like to take and see pitches, but that's just kind of me.
"For the first day, I actually felt pretty good. I put a couple balls in fair territory, so I'll take that as wins."
Saunders came to camp last year vowing to be more aggressive and carried that over through a breakout season that now has him firmly in a starting role. Monday's approach reaffirmed that mentality will continue in 2013.
"Be aggressive, right from the chute," he said. "Nothing has changed."
Paulino joins workouts for first time
PEORIA, Ariz. -- After missing the first five days of Spring Training due to a visa issue getting out of the Dominican Republic, catcher Ronny Paulino finally took the field Monday with the Mariners.
It wasn't hard to spot the new arrival as he stands 6-foot-3, 250 pounds. But the eight-year Major League veteran was playing catchup in his first day back as coaches let him get adjusted and work his way in slowly.
"You never want to be late," Paulino said. "The timing was something that was out of my hands, something I couldn't really control."
Paulino said his visa petition was delayed because he signed with the Mariners late in the offseason. But a year ago, he missed nearly two weeks with the Orioles and still managed to make the Opening Day roster.
He said he's in good condition, having played winter ball through Jan. 20. His challenge will be getting to know the Mariners pitchers and a new situation, which he acknowledged had him swimming a bit Monday. Having previously played for the Pirates, Marlins, Mets and Orioles, this is the first time he hasn't headed to Florida for Spring Training.
"For me, it's been kind of easy the last couple years getting to know different pitching staffs. Hopefully this year will be the same," he said. "This is a whole different team and group of guys. And my first time in Arizona, I feel kind of lost a little bit. It's different. But the game doesn't change. Phoenix is different, but the game is the same."
Seager introduces himself the hard way
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Veteran reliever Kameron Loe made an impression on third baseman Kyle Seager this week in Mariners camp … literally.
Running a bunt drill on Sunday, the 6-foot-8, 245-pound Loe charged off the mound and knocked Seager flat on his back after the two collided as they reached for the ball. A surprised Seager emerged unscathed, but with a healthy appreciation for the size of his new teammate.
"If you think he's big when you're standing next to him, imagine lying on your back looking up at him," Seager said with a laugh prior to Monday's workout. "Thankfully, I'd said hello to him before that. That wouldn't have been the best way to meet … looking up and saying, 'Please don't step on me.'"
Seager said the play actually was a good reminder of the importance of getting familiar with different pitchers and their athletic ability and agility. People talk frequently of the working relationship between pitchers and catchers, but to a smaller degree there is a need for position players to communicate and get to know each other as well.
Which is exactly why teams spend time in Spring Training doing bunt drills and situational work on every kind of play imaginable.
"Those things are definitely important because all the pitchers are different," Seager said. "Some really attack bunts full tilt, some are a little more hesitant and want the infielders to take them. You can kind of gauge the athleticism just doing those drills and seeing how they move. So it's important to build those relationships."
As for Loe? He's an eight-year Major League veteran who spent the last three seasons in the Brewers' bullpen, logging a 3.67 ERA in 195 appearances.
Had Seager even met him before they ran into each other on the field?
"Just very briefly. I'd said hello to him, then I got to know him a little better yesterday," Seager said with a smile. "He's a real nice guy. It was just a little bunt play. I called it late and should have called it a lot earlier. And that's why."
• Manager Eric Wedge reiterated Monday that Justin Smoak remains his leading contender to "get the bulk of the time at first base" to start the season, while Kendrys Morales would primarily play designated hitter, though he noted the team now has enough flexibility to change that if necessary.
But he said while things can change, "something drastic" would have to occur to alter that plan during Spring Training.
• Felix Hernandez, who has been limited to just playing catch and long toss to this point, will likely get his first bullpen session on Wednesday. Hernandez is being brought along slower than the rest of the pitchers, but will begin working his way into the mix this week as the Mariners bring him on his own pace toward Opening Day.
• Joe Saunders and Hisashi Iwakuma both threw their third bullpen sessions on Monday and are expected to join the rest of the pitchers in live batting practice later this week. Jeremy Bonderman and Jon Garland are the only other pitchers who threw three bullpens, doing so on Sunday, and will also move into the live BP rotation in their next outing.
• Half the pitchers threw live BP on Monday, led by returning starter Blake Beavan and reliever Oliver Perez. Also throwing were Hector Noesi, Kameron Loe, Andrew Carraway, Chance Ruffin, D.J. Mitchell, Anthony Fernandez, Danny Farquhar, Brian Moran, Logan Bawcom, Carson Smith and Jonathan Arias.
Scheduled to throw on Tuesday: Erasmo Ramirez, Josh Kinney, Tom Wilhelmsen, Stephen Pryor, Charlie Furbush, Lucas Luetge, Carter Capps, Brandon Maurer, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Bobby LaFromboise.