Joe Saunders headed back to Mariners

Seattle Mariners v Detroit TigersWhile the Mariners have yet to make it official, it was hard to ignore the temporary sign at a locker in the team’s Spring Training clubhouse on Friday to clear a space for Joe Saunders.

The 33-year-old southpaw has agreed to a Minor League deal with a non-roster invitation to camp with the Mariners, but must pass his physical exam before things are finalized. Mariners pitchers and catchers were reporting to camp on Friday and will be on the field for the first time Saturday morning.

Saunders has been a starter most of his 10-year Major League career, but could compete for a role as a lefty relief specialist or provide further depth and injury insurance for a Seattle club that already has seven starting candidates.

Saunders was 0-5 with a 6.70 ERA in 14 appearances (eight starts) with the Rangers and Orioles last year after going 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA in 32 starts for Seattle in 2013. The Virginia native was a 2008 American League All-Star with the Angels and has a career 86-89 record with a 4.37 ERA in 235 Major League games, with only six of those in relief.

Seattle has been searching for left-handed bullpen candidates to complement Charlie Furbush, the lone full-time lefty returnee from 2014. Veteran Joe Beimel filled the second lefty slot last season, but he remains an unsigned free agent.

Lucas Luetge is another southpaw who split time between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle last year and the club selected left-handed reliever David Rollins from the Astros in the Rule 5 Draft. General manager Jack Zduriencik also acquired lefty Mike Kickham from the Giants in an offseason trade, claimed Edgar Olmos off waivers and brought in veteran Rafael Perez as a non-roster invitee.

Olmos, who has some Major League experience with the Marlins, was designated for assignment last week and the club is currently waiting to see if he clears waivers.

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