The comfort of Safeco Field was supposed to be a little less comfortable this season, with the walls moved in as much as 17 feet closer to home plate.
And for the most part, it's worked. ESPN's Park Factor lists Safeco as the 18th easiest place to hit this season, as opposed to last year, when it ranked dead last among all 30 ballparks.
But for Saturday starter Joe Saunders, the comfort of Safeco goes beyond the depth of center field.
As the Mariners continue their weekend series in Cleveland, Saunders will try to complete his first successful road performance of the season.
"It's hard to explain," said Saunders, who has an 0-4 record on the road with a 12.54 ERA, compared to a 3-0 record with a 0.94 ERA at home. "I pride myself on being a good road pitcher, and that hasn't happened yet. So hopefully I can finally turn the page. I know I have it in me. It's just a matter of doing it on the road. Hopefully we can turn the page a little bit and get a 'W.'
"There is no rhyme or reason for it. It's just happening. It's one of those things you have to deal with during the season. You have ups and downs. Right now it's just that, and I have to push through and focus a little more and do whatever it takes."
Mariners manager Eric Wedge doesn't think the home/road splits are at all meaningful, despite Saunders being an extreme ground-ball pitcher who could thrive in a park with deeper dimensions.
Over Saunders' career, he's actually been a better pitcher on the road, where he's posted an ERA 0.50 lower than at home.
"I don't think that's going to keep up," Wedge said of Saunders' road woes in 2013. "It's kind of a fluky trend here early on. You look over his career and he's pitched well on the road. He's a pro. It's just about him executing pitches and going out there and pitching his ballgame. He's smart and has a good feel. His stuff has been really good. I don't think that's something that is going to continue."
Saunders will be up against Zach McAllister and the surging Indians, who have won eight of their last 11, and have a lineup that's finally at full strength as Michael Bourn returned from the 15-day disabled list and recently declared himself 100 percent healthy.
"If you asked anyone here in Spring Training if we'd take where we're at right now, I'm sure everyone would say yes," said Mark Reynolds, who has 11 homers and 34 RBIs this season. "We had a rough start. But guys are coming together. Guys are getting their roles defined more. Our starting pitching has kind of got the kinks out now. They're throwing great for us."
McAllister is 2-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his last three starts.
Mariners: Noesi optioned
Hector Noesi, the other piece that the Mariners acquired with Jesus Montero when they sent Michael Pineda and Jose Campos to the Yankees, was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma Friday.
Noesi struggled while spending most of his time in the starting rotation last season, posting a 5.82 ERA while allowing 21 home runs in 106 2/3 innings. In 2013, the 26-year-old had pitched well, with a 2.63 ERA in 13 2/3 innings while making one start, but the Mariners will send Noesi to Tacoma where he'll be available as a starter if needed.
"He was the odd-man out," Wedge said. "We're obviously thrilled with the way he threw the ball [Thursday]. [Pitching coach Carl Willis] and I talked to him today. That's what we're talking about. That aggressiveness with that stuff and the edge and focus he had out there, that's it. Now he's got to bottle it."
Danny Farquhar was called up to take the open spot. He had allowed one run in his last 16 innings in Tacoma.
Indians: Pestano bolsters bullpen
One of the best bullpens in the American League got a little bit stronger Friday when the Indians activated set-up man Vinnie Pestano.
After missing 15 days with right elbow tendinitis, Pestano will jump right back into his eighth-inning role, manager Terry Francona said. Pestano pitched a scoreless 10th inning Friday and picked up his first win of the season.
"I'm symptom free," said Pestano, who has a 2.00 ERA through his first nine games this season. "It was brutal watching these guys on TV. It's tough. You kind of almost feel forgotten a little bit when you're not a part of the team."
• Jason Kipnis' walk-off homer for the Indians on Friday gave him 13 extra-base hits in his last 14 games.
• Mariners 40-year-old outfielder Raul Ibanez has five homers in his last six games and seven total on the season.
• Michael Morse was a late scratch Friday with eye irritation, though he was available to pinch-hit and it doesn't appear to be serious.
• Indians right-hander Brett Myers, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow issue, is scheduled to make his first Minor League rehab appearances on Friday with Double-A Akron.