Saunders aiming to return Monday in Minnesota

Saunders aiming to return Monday in Minnesota

Saunders aiming to return Monday in Minnesota
CHICAGO -- Michael Saunders was out of the lineup again Sunday for the Mariners as the center fielder recovers from a minor strain of his right groin muscle after colliding with teammate Eric Thames in the ninth inning of Friday's 9-8 loss to the White Sox.

Casper Wells was penciled into the lineup in center for the series finale, with Saunders hopeful of returning by Monday when the club opens a four-game set in Minnesota.

Saunders is a big man at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, but got the bad end of the impact with the rock-solid Thames, who is listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds. Saunders, 25, said he'd never had that kind of collision in the outfield.

"Never to that magnitude, especially with such a big guy, to be honest," Saunders said Sunday. "I think I might have got the worst of that one. It was like hitting a truck. He's built like a linebacker. Unfortunately sometimes it's one of those things that happen. It wasn't the first time and certainly won't be the last time that happens in baseball. It's too bad, but fortunately we're both all right."

Saunders and Thames were both tracking a line drive to the right-center-field gap by Paul Konerko in a tie game with the winning run on second base. Thames had the ball in his glove momentarily before Saunders crashed into him at the warning track.

"People don't realize until you get out there what it's like to play in front of 40,000 and how loud it gets," he said. "Especially being where it was in the game at that point. Fans think it might be a game-winning home run, they were going nuts, it was a do-or-die play and we were both going 100 percent for it.

"We were both calling for it, but couldn't hear each other. We had to make the play or we lose."

Saunders said his groin apparently strained with the way his body torqued in the collision.

"It must have been the way I got hit and flipped around," he said. "But it's getting better and I'm trying to be ready for Minnesota."