Montero expected to replace Saunders tonight

Montero, Jesus (2)

With Michael Saunders being placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday night with an injured right shoulder, the club is expected to add designated hitter/first baseman Jesus Montero to the 25-man roster to take his place on Thursday.

The Mariners can’t confirm that move until Montero arrives in Seattle in time for Thursday night’s 7:10 p.m. series finale with the Yankees, but the 24-year-old was not in the lineup for Triple-A Tacoma’s game on Thursday morning in Memphis, Tenn., and is believed en route to Seattle.

While Saunders is an outfielder, the Mariners have more of a need for a designated hitter at this point as they’ve been operating without a full-time DH since Corey Hart went on the 15-day disabled list on May 19 with a strained hamstring.

The Mariners have been going with an extra outfielder for the past two weeks since recalling Endy Chavez from Tacoma. Even with Saunders sidelined, they still have five outfielders in Dustin Ackley, James Jones, Cole Gillespie, Stefen Romero and Chavez.

Gillespie has been used at DH the past two games and Romero and Ackley have also taken turns there, as has backup catcher John Buck. But Gillespie and Chavez likely will split time in right field on a regular basis while Saunders is sidelined and Montero would provide a right-handed bat to a lefty-heavy lineup.

Montero was hitting .270 with 15 doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 40 RBIs in 59 games with Tacoma with a .465 slugging percentage and .800 OPS.

Montero was regarded as one of baseball’s premier young hitting prospects when acquired by Seattle from the Yankees in the Michael Pineda trade in 2012 and he hit .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs in 135 games while splitting time between catcher and DH as a rookie that season.

But Montero lost his job as the starting catcher early in 2013 after batting .208 with three homers and nine RBIs in 29 games. He was sent down to Tacoma, underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and then was suspended for the remainder of the season in the Biogenesis scandal.

Hart is eligible to come off the disabled list as soon as he’s ready, but he’s likely to be out at least another few weeks as he’s just now starting to do some initial work in the batting cages and hasn’t begun running yet on a hamstring he injured three weeks ago.

The Mariners recently signed veteran outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady to a Minor League deal, but he’s batted just .167 in his first 10 games with Tacoma.

The club activated Logan Morrison off the 15-day DL on Wednesday, but he’s expected to play quite a bit of first base with Justin Smoak going on the DL with a sore left quad muscle.

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