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Originally published April 26, 2013 at 8:50 PM | Page modified April 26, 2013 at 11:56 PM

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Jason Bay leads off for first time in 11-year career

Bay led off a lineup still depleted by injuries to Michael Saunders and Franklin Gutierrez.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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For Jason Bay, hitting first was a first.

Bay had played 1,227 games in his 11-year career, but never as a leadoff hitter until the Mariners' game Friday night against the Los Angeles Angels. The opportunity came as a result of injuries and a preferred matchup against left-handed starter C.J. Wilson, though Bay, 34, downplayed the move's significance.

"It doesn't change what I'm doing, whether I'm hitting first, fourth or eighth," said Bay. "It's not a big deal. ... I'm just trying to get at-bats wherever I can."

Bay's fellow outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders — who have both been used at leadoff this season — are out injured with hamstring and shoulder injuries, respectively.

Bay had been used as a leadoff hitter for parts of spring training, an experiment that made him and manager Eric Wedge more comfortable about Friday's move.

"We're looking for people to step up, and we've given everybody opportunities," Wedge days. "We're going to continue to do that, and the ones that wind up most consistent are the ones who are going to play."

Bay had two hits in Thursday's 6-0 win against the Angels and said he's just "trying to keep it rolling."

Saunders rehabs

with Tacoma

Saunders was eligible to come off the disabled list Friday, but the 26-year-old instead began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Tacoma. He will stay with the Rainiers through the weekend as Wedge said the earliest the outfielder would return is Monday against Baltimore. Seattle will wait to recall Saunders until he is able to play center field, not just be a designated hitter.

"He's anxious to get back," said Wedge, who praised Saunders' development before the injury.

Saunders has an active seven-game hitting streak in the majors.

NOTE

• Class AAA prospect Danny Hultzen has a left rotator-cuff strain and tendinitis. Treated with rest and rehab, the left-handed pitcher is expected to miss two weeks.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com

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