Saunders continues rehab stint with Tacoma

Minnesota Twins v Seattle MarinersRight fielder Michael Saunders went 0-for-3 with two walks for Triple-A Tacoma in Monday’s 6-2 victory at Round Rock in his ninth rehab start as he continues working back from a strained oblique muscle that landed him on the 15-day DL on July 11.

Saunders has hit .258 (8-for-31) with 13 walks in his nine games for Tacoma. He’s 2-for-14 with six walks in four games since returning from paternity leave following the birth of his second child.

Since Saunders got hurt, the Mariners traded for center fielder Austin Jackson and right fielder Chris Denorfia, so there appears less need to rush the 27-year-old back until he’s fully healthy. Denorfia and veteran Endy Chavez have been splitting time in right field in a platoon situation that has been working well with Chavez hitting .276 and the right-handed batting Denorfia hitting.320 over his last eight games after a slow start.

Saunders has hit .276 with six homers and 28 RBIs in 65 games for Seattle and is a strong defender, but he’s on his second DL stint this season and manager Lloyd McClendon wants him to be right when he returns.

“He’s working it out, he’s trying to get back,” McClendon said. “We knew there would be some rust. That’s why you have the 20-day rehab. He’s trying to get himself sharp and ready to get back here.”

Saunders began his rehab assignment on Aug. 7, so the Mariners have until Aug. 27 before they need to make a decision. Minor League rehabs for position players can be a maximum of 20 days.

With James Jones optioned back to Tacoma on Monday to make room for starting pitcher Roenis Elias, Seattle is going with four outfielders for now in Dustin Ackley, Jackson, Chavez and Denorfia, though Logan Morrison played right field on Monday with no DH spot available in the Interleague road game.

If Saunders returns prior to Sept. 1, when rosters can be expanded beyond the 25-man limit, it will require a tough roster decision for a club that’s been carrying an extra reliever and would likely need to make a move in the bullpen.

4 Comments

Of course just listing batting average is overselling the comparison here.

Denorfia as a Mariner: .250/.294/.313 (.607 OPS, well below average)
Chavez: .276/.304/.370 (.674 OPS, still below average – dude doesn’t walk)
Saunders: .276/.327/.434 (.761 OPS, somewhat above average)

And that ignores the fact that Saunders is a better fielder.

You’ll get no argument from me there. I think Saunders adds a lot to the team. But clearly they are not going to rush him back until they think he’s fully healthy. And for now, Chavez and Denorfia have been playing well enough to make that less of a concern. Having depth is a good problem.

Greg… Any idea why McClendon seems to have such an issue with Saunders. Right from the start of the season Saunders has had limited opportunity and it never seems good enough. He is the top hitting outfielder, certainly one of the strongest position players in the outfield and brings speed and power to the plate.

I feel the same way. Saunders needs to learn to stay healthy, but he’s the best outfield bat we have and going forward.

I wonder what the Mariners have planned for Ackley in the long term. I’d prefer Saunders over Ackley. Ackley has cooled off in August. If they can get high return on Ackley with a team looking for a solid hitting, defensive 2B, I would trade Ackley and look for a more traditional OFer.

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