Jackson, Denorfia ready to step in and contribute

Outfielders penciled in immediately as Mariners prepare for postseason run

Jackson, Denorfia ready to step in and contribute

BALTIMORE -- Austin Jackson has played in the American League Championship Series the past three years with the Tigers, has a World Series under his belt and was an integral part of a team that is again leading the AL Central.

So, sure, the 27-year-old had some mixed emotions when he was pulled out of Thursday's game against the White Sox and told he was being traded to a Mariners club fighting for its first playoff berth since 2001. But Jackson joined his new club Friday with a broad smile and an insistence that this was a good thing for him.

"It's a new chapter," Jackson said after exchanging handshakes and hugs with his new teammates. "I get to start fresh, to help a ballclub that is trying to advance. I like that challenge. I've always been somebody that is up for a good challenge, and I see this as one of those challenges."

Jackson and Chris Denorfia joined the Mariners on Friday and were immediately inserted into the lineup for Seattle's series opener against the Orioles.

Jackson, acquired as part of a three-way trade from the Tigers on Thursday for Minor League infielder Nick Franklin, was plugged into center field and the leadoff spot by manager Lloyd McClendon, his former hitting instructor in Detroit.

Denorfia, obtained from the Padres for Minor Leaguers Abraham Almonte and Stephen Kohlscheen in another deal just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline, was penciled into right field and the sixth spot in the batting order.

Rookie outfielders James Jones and Stefen Romero were optioned to Triple-A Tacoma to make room for the two new additions.

Jackson said the chance to play for McClendon is part of the allure of his new situation.

"Me and Lloyd go back to the Tigers, and the connection we were able to make was awesome," Jackson said. "I'm looking forward to that same type of connection with him being the manager. I was happy for him when it happened, and I'm more happy now that I'm playing for him."

McClendon worked with Jackson the past four years, taking him under his wing and helping him through some tough times when he led the AL in strikeouts and turning out a very productive center fielder.

"When the strikeouts started adding up, he was patient with me," Jackson said. "He taught me a lot. He taught me how to be a big league hitter. He was the first big league coach I had, so I learned a lot from him and was able to transition over to a better hitter."

Denorfia comes from a different situation, being dealt by a Padres club that was 12 games under .500 in the NL West. He said the trade energized him, even after flying across the country Friday to join his new club.

"I'm going on a couple hours sleep, but I feel like I had a pot of coffee just walking in here," the 34-year-old Denorfia said. "I'm really looking forward to getting off to a good start and a fresh start, too. There were a little bit of struggles this year, teamwise and personally, but none of that matters now. I can look up at the scoreboard and see zeros and our record is above .500. It's a different outlook just coming here to the ballpark."

Denorfia is a career .275 hitter in nine seasons in the Majors, but he was batting .242 with one home run and 16 RBIs in 248 at-bats for San Diego this season.

"The reasons are what they are," Denorfia said. "I'm not one to make excuses. I've been the person up at the plate not getting as many hits as I have in the past, but as far as I'm concerned, it's still a small sample size. We still have two months left in the season, and maybe it just means I'm due to get more hits now."

Denorfia has primarily been a platoon hitter against left-handed pitchers in his time with San Diego, but McClendon indicated he could be used more initially by the Mariners, who are still awaiting the return of right fielder Michael Saunders from the disabled list with a strained oblique muscle.

Saunders is close to going out on a Minor League rehab assignment, but he figures to need a week or more to get his timing back in Triple-A Tacoma once he's cleared for that duty. Denorfia will take whatever comes his way.

"I'm here to play whatever role it is," Denorfia said. "The way I look at it, we're all role players, whether you're a superstar or a bench guy or a bullpen coach or whatever. We all play our role and do our job, and that's part of what makes a good team."

The two rookies sent down just need to play every day and continue working, McClendon said. Jones hit .258/.287/.313 in 79 games after being called up in early May. The 25-year-old leads the Mariners with 20 stolen bases while filling a top-of-the-order spot for much of his stay, but he slumped badly in July, when he hit just .196 and was 1-for-30 over his last nine games with 13 strikeouts.

Romero hit .196/.236/.310 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 60 games in two different stints with the Mariners.

"They're two young players that are very talented," McClendon said. "It does them no good to sit on the bench. They need to continue to play and develop. They're certainly a big part of our future. They'll go down and play and be back in September."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.