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Originally published Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 6:25 PM

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Mariners' John Jaso relaxes, produces at the plate

John Jaso says a more relaxed mind is a big reason he's putting up better offensive numbers this season.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — John Jaso says he's actually learned to relax more as a part-time player with the Mariners than he did playing full-time with Tampa Bay.

And that more-relaxed state of mind is something Jaso figures helped take his offensive numbers to another level this season. On Thursday, he became the seventh Mariners hitter to reach double figures for home runs when he clubbed his 10th off Dan Haren of the Angels in the fourth inning.

That gives Seattle more double-digit home run guys this season than at any other time since 2000.

"I just kind of found myself a little bit this year and I think I've actually relaxed a little bit this year, too," he said after the game. "I mean, its kind of weird the way this game goes with that."

Jaso said that with the Rays, there was always constant pressure to be in a certain place — like the indoor batting cage — at certain times. That wasn't the case with the Mariners.

"I hardly ever go in the cage," he said. "I just take BP. I mean, that's just worked so well for me and being able to relax and not have to worry about those things, I've just felt a little more free."

Saunders back

Michael Saunders arrived at the clubhouse Thursday morning looking a bit bleary-eyed, but nonetheless ready to start the afternoon's game in left field.

Saunders missed the first two games of the series while his wife, Jessica, was giving birth to the couple's first child, a daughter, Aria, in Colorado. After two days with them, he flew in late Wednesday night and did not get much sleep.

"No experience in baseball will ever duplicate what I just went through," Saunders said with a smile.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge was smiling as well, saying he liked being able to put a solid defensive outfield of Saunders, Franklin Gutierrez and Casper Wells out there at the same time.

Some shoddy outfield play helped cost the Mariners an early run in a loss in the series opener on Tuesday night. Wedge said he's learned a lot about what his players — including a wide assortment of outfield candidates — bring to the table in regards to what to look for in 2012.

Wells has to earn time

As for Wells, who has seen only sporadic playing time in the second-half after a promising month of June, Wedge said he has to earn his time out there.

"Just put himself in a better position to hit the baseball," Wedge said. "He's raised his hands a bit. He's trying to hold on to the bat with both hands, which will help him see the ball better and be shorter to the baseball.

"Most definitely, he's able to hit left-handers. But if he does that, he may be able to hit right-handers, too."

Wells entered play Thursday having hit .244 with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .817 against left-handers, but just .199 with a .517 OPS facing right-handers.

In June, he hit .325 with a .836 OPS. But that has steadily declined since and he'd been batting .188 with a .586 OPS in the second half entering play Thursday.

Wells did collect a pair of singles in Thursday's game.

"He's had spurts, but he's played himself on and off the field," Wedge said. "So, the ball's in his court. He just needs to go out there and be more consistent so we know what we can expect."

Key AB for Robinson

Trayvon Robinson might have had the biggest plate appearance of the day for the Mariners, even though he did not record a hit. Robinson worked a five-pitch walk against Garrett Richards with the bases loaded and one out in a 3-2 game in the seventh.

He took a 1-1 pitch for a tightly-called ball Richards felt could have been a strike. Robinson said it wasn't tough to lay off.

"I feel like if I'm looking for one spot, one pitch, I've got to lay off everything else," he said.

The next two pitches weren't even close as Robinson walked to force home the run. Three more runs would follow.

Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or gbaker@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @gbakermariners. Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners.

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