CHICAGO -- After seven weeks in Arizona and a week on the road in Oakland and Chicago, the Mariners are interested to see what Safeco Field looks like when they come home for their opening series starting Monday against the Astros.
Though players were told at the end of last season that the fences were being moved in, they haven't seen the new configuration, or the huge new video screen in center field that will be the largest in the Major Leagues.
The fences figure to most affect right-handed hitters, since the largest change is a shortened left-center-field gap. The fence will be from 4-17 feet closer at different points in that area of the field, helping make Safeco a little less cavernous in the power alley.
"I'm very happy about that," catcher Jesus Montero said. "It's going to be different this year. Last year, we were like, 'Oh, this park is tough.' Now it's going to be better. It's going to be fun."
"It's definitely going to be different, so it'll be interesting to see what it looks like," said first baseman Justin Smoak. "But as a team, we're just excited to get back home and play in front of our own fans. It'll be good to get back there and get settled in and get ready to go. It feels like we've been gone forever."
The huge new video board is also a curiosity for the players.
"Without a doubt, I'm excited about the new video screen," said outfielder Michael Saunders. "Safeco is so beautiful. The video screen was the one thing we were missing. It kind of looked like a beautiful park with an outdated scoreboard. Now that that's coming in, that'll be something not just for the players, but the fans as well. It's up to date, it's a gorgeous ballpark and it's a pleasure to be able to play there on a regular basis."
The Mariners opened on the road in Oakland for a fourth consecutive season, so they're eager to get home for their own festivities in Seattle to start a 10-game homestand.
"Going back to Seattle will be an amazing experience and an incredible moment," said Raul Ibanez, who has rejoined the Mariners for a third time in his career. "It will be a lot of good, positive emotions there."
Mariners expect better outcome against Humber
CHICAGO -- Philip Humber pitches for a different team this year, but the man who threw a perfect game against the Mariners last April 21 for the White Sox will be on the hill against them when they open their home season Monday night at Safeco Field.
Humber now is a member of the Houston Astros and will make his second start for his new club in the 7:10 p.m. PT game at Safeco. After his perfect game, the 30-year-old right-hander eventually lost his starting role with the White Sox and was released following a 5-5 season with a 6.44 ERA.
He lost his Astros debut this week to the Rangers, but gave up just one earned run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
The irony of opening their home season against the guy who mowed them down with 27 straight outs last April is not lost on the Mariners.
"This game is weird in crazy ways," said first baseman Justin Smoak. "It just happens to be one of those things."
Five Mariners who were in the starting lineup that day are back -- Smoak, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager, Jesus Montero and Michael Saunders. Shortstop Brendan Ryan also came off the bench in that one and was the final out.
"This time, hopefully it's a different outcome," said Saunders. "We're swinging the bats real well right now. We're a different offensive club. I think we're a little more feared now when people are pitching against us. Not only did we address the middle-of-the-order need, but we've got guys who took another step forward this year.
"Overall, we're a much more consistent and potent offensive club. I'm hoping it's going to be different. He's a good pitcher and he proved that against us last year, but it should be a different story this year."
Opening Night tickets remain available
CHICAGO -- Tickets for the Mariners home opener on Monday night were still available as of Sunday as the club returns to Safeco Field to face the Houston Astros, their new American League West foe.
Pregame ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m. PT, with Seattle band Pickwick performing three songs. Jamie Moyer, the winningest pitcher in Mariners history, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the 7:10 p.m. game.
Gates will open at 4:40 p.m. and all fans will receive a 2013 Mariners magnetic schedule. The pregame ceremony will be streamed live on Mariners.com starting at 6:30 p.m. and Root Sports will air an hour-long pregame show starting at 6 p.m.
Pickwick will open the festivities with a three-song set -- a cover of Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up," an original tune called "Window Sill," and John Fogerty's "Centerfield."
Marlee Burkett, an 11-year-old from Sammamish, Wash., will do the ceremonial first run around the bases. Burkett is a Make-A-Wish child who recently underwent a liver transplant.
The national anthem will be performed by the Gospel Outreach choir.
Joe Saunders, a veteran left-hander signed as a free agent this offseason, gets the Opening Night start for the Mariners. He'll face Astros right-hander Philip Humber, who threw a perfect game against the Mariners last year while with the White Sox.
• Jeremy Bonderman gave up three runs on 10 hits over five innings in his debut with Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday. The veteran right-hander had two walks and two strikeouts in Tacoma's 8-6 win. Catcher Mike Zunino went 2-for-4 with a home run and five RBIs.
• Hector Noesi pitched six shutout innings with two hits, one walk and five strikeouts for Double-A Jackson.
•The Mariners' Class A Clinton club hit four home runs in the first inning Saturday, including consecutive bombs by Dario Pizzano, Guillermo Pimentel and Patrick Kivlehan in an 11-5 victory over Burlington.
• The Mariners and A's are the only Major League teams to not have a day off yet this season. The A's have Monday off, but the Mariners won't have a break until April 15, a string of 14 straight games to begin the season.