SEATTLE -- Looking to spark a lineup that produced just one earned run over its previous three games, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon moved rookie center fielder James Jones into the leadoff spot for the first time for Saturday night's game with the Royals.
Jones, who was recalled from Triple-A Tacoma on Monday, has gone 5-for-11 (.455) in his first seven games in the Majors. He'd started two games prior to Saturday, batting second behind Michael Saunders during the previous series in Oakland.
But with Saunders going 0-for-10 in the last three games, during which the Mariners totaled just 10 hits and two runs (one earned), McClendon moved the 25-year-old into the top spot against hard-throwing Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura.
"He's a prototypical-type leadoff guy," McClendon said. "We'll give him his chance and see what he can do."
Jones has hit .306 with 83 runs, 24 doubles, 11 triples and nine home runs in 360 at-bats hitting in the leadoff role in the Minors. He doubled and scored Seattle's lone run as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning in Friday's 6-1 loss and has already shown an element of speed that the Mariners can use in front of Robinson Cano and Corey Hart.
But McClendon said it takes more than that to be a successful leadoff man.
"Obviously if you've got guys on, particularly in front of Robbie and Corey, that helps with the type of pitches they should see," he said. "But the important thing is to get guys on base. Speed is secondary at this point.
"I like what I've seen," said McClendon. "I don't think he's overmatched at the plate. He has the ability to put the bat on the ball and gets great jumps in the outfield. I've been impressed."
Jones, a fourth-round Draft pick out of Long Island University in 2009, hit .313 with 15 runs scored in 20 games for Triple-A Tacoma this year. He's eager to show what he can with any opportunity that arises now that he's in the Majors.
"Leading off gives you the opportunity as a table-setter. I know my role with that," he said. "But I'm not going to try to change anything from what I've been doing. I'm still going to stay aggressive and when it comes to being patient, the game will dictate what my approach should be."
A week into his Major League career, the Brooklyn native is still soaking everything in.
"I'd say it's more surreal when the game is not going on," Jones said. "Once the game starts, everything else shuts off and I go into compete mode. I don't have time to really be thinking about, 'Wow, this is the big leagues.' But beforehand and after the fact, it sinks in a lot.
"But I'm comfortable here," he said. "It's not the same thing, but when I first got drafted I was in Everett. So I'm pretty used to the area. And Safeco as a home field, I feel like it's an honor. It's a great home field and I love the fans and stuff. I'm happy here."
Seager out of lineup with flu on his giveaway night
SEATTLE -- Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager missed his second straight game Saturday due to a flu-like illness that hit him prior to Friday's series opener with the Royals.
Seager was with the team Saturday, but not in the lineup, as utility infielder Willie Bloomquist got the call again at third on a night that featured a Seager bat giveaway for all kids aged 14 and under at Safeco Field.
"He was pretty sick last night, so we're going to hold him out," said manager Lloyd McClendon.
Seager is the third Mariners player to come down with the flu in the past two weeks. Catcher Mike Zunino dealt with a similar illness on the day the team traveled to New York on April 28, though he was able to play the next night against the Yankees.
Pitcher Felix Hernandez lost nine pounds in two days and said he was physically drained in his May 2 start in Houston, when he was only able to go five innings.
Now Seager is temporarily sidelined, which takes one of Seattle's hotter bats out of the lineup. After a slow start, Seager won American League co-Player of the Week honors for April 21-27 and he's batted .340 (18-for-53) with five home runs and 17 RBIs over his last 14 games.
• After holding the Royals to 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position Friday, the Mariners had limited opponents to a .083 average (3-for-36) in that situation over a five-game stretch. Going into Saturday's game, the Mariners were first in the Majors with their .191 opponent's batting average with RISP.
• Brandon Maurer became the first pitcher since Brooklyn's Dick Robertson in 1918 to allow at least 14 hits without an extra-base hit, a walk or a strikeout in one game when he pulled that feat in Friday's 6-1 loss to the Royals. Maurer allowed 14 hits in 7 1/3 innings, allowing all six runs, four of which were earned.
• Third baseman Patrick Kivlehan, the Mariners fourth-round Draft pick out of Rutgers in 2012, was promoted from Class A Advanced High Desert to Double-A Jackson on Saturday after hitting .292 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs in 34 games.
• Right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal, 37, has signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners and will report to Triple-A Tacoma. MacDougal is a 12-year veteran who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2012 when he appeared in seven games for the Dodgers. MacDougal has 71 career saves and a 4.00 ERA in 409 appearances with the Royals, White Sox, Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers.