Saunders returns straight to lineup as Ackley still out

SaundersMichaelOutfielder Michael Saunders was activated from the 15-day disabled list by the Mariners on Monday and immediately inserted into the lineup to face the Astros in the opener of a three-game series at Safeco Field.

Saunders has been out since straining his left oblique muscle on July 10. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Aug. 7 and hit .257 in 10 games, but then was sidelined by a viral infection on Aug. 19 and hasn’t played in a game since.

“It’s been extremely frustrating,” Saunders acknowledged. “I was ready to go with my oblique and then I got sick. That couldn’t have come at a worse time. But that’s behind me. I’m focusing on what’s ahead for September. It’s fun. These games mean something. We’re looking at one goal and that is to make the playoffs. Things are looking good.”

The sixth-year veteran has been working out and playing in simulated games at the team’s Minor League facility in Peoria, Ariz., the last week.

“We did the best we could do,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He took some batting practice, ran, threw. From a conditioning standpoint, he’s ready to go. I don’t know if he’s game ready or not, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hopefully he can jump start us.”

With left fielder Dustin Ackley ailing with a sore left ankle, Saunders was penciled into the lineup in right field for Monday’s game against the Astros, with Endy Chavez shifting over to left.

Ackley was scheduled for an MRI test on a sore left ankle, but said he doesn’t think the situation is anything serious after sitting out his second straight game after being removed midway through Saturday’s 4-2 win.

“It’s a little better than it was the other day, but they want to get it checked out and see if it’s inflammation or whatever and go from there,” he said prior to Monday’s game. “I don’t know a whole lot until they get in there and look at it, but it doesn’t seem like it’s anything crazy.”

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