Michael Saunders back in leadoff role Monday

SaundersMichaelMichael Saunders was activated off the disabled list and immediately installed by Mariners manager Eric Wedge as the starting center fielder and leadoff hitter for Monday night’s series opener with the Orioles.

Saunders’ return is critical for a Mariners team that also has center fielder Franklin Gutierrez on the 15-day disabled list with a right hamstring strain.

Wedge said he likes Saunders in the leadoff spot even against lefty Zach Britton.

“He hangs in there tough against left-handers,” said Wedge. “He brings a dynampic up top that we like. The plan all along was him and Gutierrez up there, but with Guti being out I still like him up there.”

To make room on the 25-man roster, outfielder Carlos Peguero was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.

Saunders has been on the disabled list since April 11 with a sprained right shoulder after crashing into the right field wall at Safeco. In nine games this year, he’s hit .286 with one home run and five RBIs.

In three rehab appearances with Tacoma over the weekend, Saunders went 2-for-11 (.182) with two runs, one double, one triple and two RBIs.

Saunders said he was able to cut loose with his shoulder and passed all the necessary tests to make sure he was ready.

“You get out there and your competitive nature takes over,” he said. “You’re not so tense. I learned in ‘08 [when coming back from labrum surgery in his shoulder] that the last 5-10 percent is mental and just trusting that you’re healthy and ready to do it. Once I was at the plate, I took hard swings and it felt good to let it go.”

Saunders said he would play the same aggressive way he did before slamming into the wall tracking down a Jose Altuve line drive.

“There’s no point in playing scared,” he said. “I’m out there to play hard and that’s the way I’ve always played. That was one of the tests, to make sure I felt like myself.”

Here’s tonight’s full lineups:



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