The Mariners are one step closer to a potential roster logjam, as outfielder Michael Saunders has rejoined the team and is in the lineup for the first time since a shoulder injury took him out of action on June 10.
Saunders, who will play right field and hit seventh in the series opener against Cleveland and starter Trevor Bauer, showed no signs that his shoulder will continue to be an issue while on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma. In five games with the Rainiers, the 27-year-old hit .450 (9-for-20) with a homer, triple, two doubles, seven RBIs and five runs scored.
The Mariners have been on a tear in Saunders’ absence, winning eight of their 11, and manager Lloyd McClendon wasn’t about to make any major changes to his lineup even with Saunders back in the mix. As a result, Endy Chavez and James Jones remain in the top 2 spots of the order.
“I think having him in the 7-hole obviously gives us a deeper lineup. Endy and Jones have been doing a good job up top. Makes sense,” McClendon said.
To make room for Saunders, Seattle sent down first baseman/DH Jesus Montero, who had four hits in just 15 at-bats in his latest stint with the big club.
Saunders is the first of three regulars who were rehabbing with Tacoma to make it back to Seattle; first baseman Justin Smoak and outfielder/DH Corey Hart both remain with the Rainiers. Things will certainly get interesting sooner rather than later, as the recent surge of Logan Morrison and continued success of Jones mean the Mariners are quickly running out of starting spots in the order.
• McClendon said the team still hasn’t decided on a starting pitcher for Monday’s game at Houston. With Erasmo Ramirez back in the minors and Brandon Maurer looking impressive in the bullpen, a call-up for Taijuan Walker from Triple-A seems to be the most likely scenario but is by no means a sure thing. Walker is coming off a four-hit shutout on Tuesday against Oklahoma City. He walked just one in the complete-game effort, and more importantly he reached 109 pitches.
• James Paxton is scheduled for another bullpen session today, according to McClendon. He is nearing 11 weeks since he first injured his lat.
• Cleveland hits town with a 38-40 record and is 5-5 in its last 10 games.