Healthy Saunders returns to lineup

Healthy Saunders returns to lineup

SEATTLE -- The pain in Michael Saunders' right shoulder caused by a deep bruise has diminished to no pain at all and the left-handed-hitting rookie left fielder returned to the Mariners' lineup on Monday night.

"I'm good to go," Saunders said after taking batting practice at Safeco Field. "I hit today on the field and that felt good. I tried to turn it up a notch during BP trying to make it as game-like as possible and it felt great."

Saunders was injured on Aug. 5, when he tried to prevent a home run by the Rangers' Nelson Cruz. The ball eluded his glove and his shoulder jammed into the wall.

He's had only 19 at-bats since then and none since Aug. 21.

An MRI exam taken on Thursday revealed a right rotator cuff contusion but no structural damage.

"He had a good day [on Sunday] swinging off the tee, took early BP today, felt great and it was the best I've seen him look in the cage," interim manager Daren Brown said. "I'm excited about seeing him in there tonight. It's good to have him back and he looks like 100 percent."

Saunders figures to get an opportunity to play left field on a regular basis, both for the remainder of this season and beyond.

"We need to see him," Brown said. "Obviously, that creates some problems with some other guys, but we'll take that on a day-to-day basis and see what we can do. It's a problem for me, but it's a good problem trying to find ways to see everybody we want to see."

Saunders went into the series opener against the Angels with .222 batting average, eight home runs and 27 RBIs in 73 games and 207 at-bats.