SEATTLE -- Mariners interim manager Daren Brown just toughed out a 12-game road trip in which his team went 6-6. Now they're back home and have 10 games at Safeco Field coming up. He said he and the rest of the team are up for the challenge despite their struggles in 2010.
"It was a long road trip," Brown said. "I was happy, obviously. You go on a 12-day trip, the last six being Boston and New York, that's a tough trip for anybody. I thought we took care of business in Cleveland and Baltimore, winning two of three in both places, and then Felix [Hernandez] doing what a No. 1 starter does in the other two places, and that's going out and giving us a good ballgame.
"So I was happy with the road trip, and now we've got a tough homestand with good clubs coming in as well, so hopefully we continue what we started on the road."
Brown said the American League Central-leading Twins provide a solid challenge right away.
"I think [they] are ready to play every night from what I saw," Brown said. "We're trying to win ourselves, and it doesn't matter where anybody's at in the standings. Tonight, the only club we can beat is Minnesota. That's the only team that's on the other side.
"We know they have a good club, they've had a good club for a few years now, so for me, you've got to play good baseball, and against a team that's fundamentally sound, it makes it even more important. I look forward to it. I think it's a challenge and I think the guys in the clubhouse look forward to it."
Draft pick Littlewood visits Safeco Field
SEATTLE -- Sitting in the Safeco Field dugout and wearing a Mariners uniform for the first time, Marcus Littlewood didn't talk about grandiose plans for the signing bonus he'll soon receive, although he has a few simple needs.
"Probably a phone," he said with a smile. "I might buy my mom's car. I haven't really thought about it. All the money stuff's over my head right now. All I'm worried about is playing."
The Mariners like that line of thinking, and they like Littlewood, the team's second-round pick (67th overall) from the recent First-Year Player Draft. Littlewood, a switch-hitting middle infielder from Pine View High School in St. George, Utah, toured the stadium, took batting practice and infield practice and said he's ready to get to work.
"It's awesome," said Littlewood, who posed for pictures with several family members who came down for the special day. "Hopefully in a couple years, I'll have the same opportunity."
Littlewood has been taking advantage of opportunities lately. He played for the USA Baseball under-18 national team that went 19-2 and had the best record at the 2010 IBAF Triple-A under-18 Junior World Championships. In 21 games, Littlewood hit .359 with eight doubles, a triple, a home run and 18 RBIs, and he ended the summer with a team-best 11-game hitting streak.
Having come from a baseball family, with his father, Mike, having been a former college baseball player at Brigham Young and a 27th-round Draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 1988, Marcus said he knew what to expect while deciding whether to accept his offer to play for the University of San Diego, where he had signed, or turn pro and head to Seattle.
"It was stressful for about a month up to the [signing] deadline," Marcus said. "It was just such a relief to sign and get it over with. Every single day, I was contemplating both sides, school or pro ball, and I'm happy for the chance to sign. I'm really happy I made that decision."
The Mariners are, too. Former Seattle Minor League coordinator and current coach Pedro Grifol said he liked what he saw from Littlewood on Friday.
"He's a good-looking Draft pick," Grifol said of Littlewood, who is 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. "A switch-hitting shortstop, good action, just looked like a good baseball player. And now it's about development. Go down there, get your ABs, take your ground balls. Get in game situations, bunting situations, hit-and-runs.
"Do what it takes to develop into a big league baseball player. But you can tell by his demeanor and poise that he's going to be pretty good."
The next step for Littlewood will be instructional league next month, after which he'll head home to work out in the offseason and be ready for Minor League camp at Spring Training in Peoria next February.
Given the fact that the Mariners already changed their first-round pick of last year, Dustin Ackley, from a first baseman to a second baseman, Littlewood said he's not averse to moving around the diamond, although he's currently a shortstop and took ground balls at that position during Friday's brief infield practice.
"If I have to move, that's fine," he said. "I don't have any problem with moving. I've played every infield position, so I feel comfortable at numerous spots."
And as for his physique, Littlewood, all of 18 years old, said he's sure it will change, too.
"I can get a lot stronger," Littlewood said. "I'm sure I will. I have a lot of room to grow."
Saunders' MRI comes back clean
SEATTLE -- Michael Saunders and the Mariners got a bit of good news Friday when the outfielder's MRI results for his banged-up right shoulder came back clean.
"It was good news for us and hopefully frees his mind up a little bit," said Mariners interim manager Daren Brown, who added that Saunders would rest a few more days so the inflammation from the injection of contrast dye could settle down. "There's nothing wrong there. Just a matter of a few more days and it should feel a lot better."
Saunders hurt the shoulder when he rammed it into the wall at Safeco Field trying to catch a ball hit by Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz on Aug. 5. Saunders has played five games since then, going 2-for-19.
Brown said the club is hoping to get Saunders into a game soon, possibly as early as Monday against the Angels.
Reliever Brandon League is 3-0 with four holds, two saves and a 0.42 ERA (one earned run in 21 2/3 innings) since July 11, the final game before the All-Star break. ... Utility man Matt Tuiasosopo hit .304 (7-for-23) with two doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs during the road trip. Prior to that, he had two homers and six RBIS in his career, which spanned over 50 games and 136 at-bats. ... Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki collected his 1,000th strikeout on Wednesday, which was his 667th in Major League Baseball in 7,173 plate appearances. He struck out 333 times in Japan in 4,098 plate appearances, according to the Kyodo News.
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.