Mariners' Saunders hopes WBC success is start of something big

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Michael Saunders was so good in the World Baseball Classic he was named Most Valuable Player even though his team was eliminated.

Saunders was so good he's still listed on the stat sheet as the tournament's leading hitter, even though he's back with the Mariners and the WBC is still going on.

He hit .727 for Canada, 8 for 11 with three doubles, a home run and two walks, for a 2.042 OPS. Great numbers, but it was only three games.

So what does it mean for a guy with a .220 career average in 343 major-league games? What does it mean for a guy whose spring training numbers (.190 batting average in seven games) look a lot more like those career numbers than like those three-game WBC numbers?

"It's not just a few games, not when you're representing your country," Saunders said Wednesday morning.

The Mariners believe they'll have a significantly better offense this season, and while much of the improvement is expected to come from the additions of Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse (and perhaps Jason Bay), they'd like to think the WBC proved they can expect more from Saunders, as well.

He thinks that the WBC has helped point him in the right direction.

"I was lucky enough to hit behind (Joey) Votto and (Justin) Morneau," Saunders said. "One guy won the MVP in the National League. The other guy won the MVP in the American League. I think what I learned most from them was the attitude you have to have on a day-to-day basis.

"That's what I need, and that's what I got the most from them. There's a reason those guys are successful."

He got that, he got an MVP trophy (for the Phoenix pool), and he got an experience he won't forget.

"It was one of the greatest things I've done in my career," Saunders said.

He and the Mariners can only hope it leads to him doing even more.

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