Mariners ready for Interleague change

Mariners ready for Interleague change

SEATTLE -- After spending the past six weeks playing within the American League, the Mariners are ready for a change.

Perhaps some Interleague Play games can get them going in the right direction.

The Mariners head into Friday night's series opener against the Padres anxious to have a strong finish to what has been a difficult month, low-lighted by injuries and close losses.

"I think it will be good for us to mix it up a little," left-handed pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith said on Thursday. "I have always liked the idea of Interleague Play. It breaks up the regular routine."

The Mariners will play three home games against the Padres this weekend and travel to San Diego for three more games on June 11-13 to complete the annual home-and-home "rivalry" series between the organizations that share the Peoria Sports Complex in Spring Training.

The Mariners have a 37-31 edge in the all-time series, which began in 1997. Seattle has won each of the past four season series, going 5-1 in 2008 and 4-2 last season. The Mariners have a 19-15 lead in games played at Safeco Field.

Besides the six games against the Padres, the Mariners entertain the Cubs and Reds and visit the Cardinals and Brewers.

MARINERS' 2010 INTERLEAGUE SCHEDULE
Date Opp Record vs.
May 21 SD 37-31
May 22 SD
May 23 SD
June 11 @ SD 6-3
June 12 @ SD
June 13 @ SD
June 14 @ STL 2-4
June 15 @ STL
June 16 @ STL
June 18 CIN 5-1
June 19 CIN
June 20 CIN
June 22 CHC 2-4
June 23 CHC
June 24 CHC
June 25 @ MIL 113-117
June 26 @ MIL
June 27 @ MIL

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu is in his second season of Interleague Play games. He piloted Seattle to a 7-2 home record, including a three-game sweep against the Diamondbacks, last season. The Mariners had a 4-5 record on the road.

"I like it," Wakamatsu said of Interleague Play. "It's a different game [on the road] and the challenges are different."

Games played in National League ballparks do not include the designated-hitter rule.

And that's one of the reasons Rowland-Smith enjoys Interleague Play games so much.

"It's good for the fans because they get to see some different players," he said, "and it's for the players because we get to play the game using different rules. It's also cool for rivalries -- like Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox and [smiling] Mariners-Padres."

Left fielder Michael Saunders is among the players who have never played a game that did not include the DH.

"I grew up watching Interleague Play," the Canada product said. "I think all of the pitchers look forward to getting a chance to hit and it's always fun to watch them."

Saunders said he already has heard some clubhouse chatter among the hurlers on their hitting prowess.

"I know some of the pitchers can hit," he smiled, "and most of them talk the talk."

Rowland-Smith and Saunders are looking forward to the three games scheduled for Busch Stadium on June 14-16.

"I've heard it's a great park with a great atmosphere for baseball, and I'm looking forward to it," Rowland-Smith said.

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.