MINNEAPOLIS -- Michael Saunders had hoped to get back into the lineup at some point this week against the Twins, but the Mariners outfielder instead is pointed toward returning when Seattle opens a nine-game homestand Friday against the Angels at Safeco Field.
Saunders sat out his sixth straight game on Thursday since straining his right groin muscle in a ninth-inning collision with Eric Thames in the outfield in last Friday's 9-8 loss to the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Manager Eric Wedge said Saunders was very close to being ready, but the decision was made to give him one more day to make sure he's 100 percent to go on Friday night.
"We just feel like he needs a day of rest, he's been pushing so hard to come back," Wedge said prior to Thursday's finale with the Twins. "The best opportunity for him to play in the outfield tomorrow and play an entire game would be to give him some time today. We plan on him being in the outfield tomorrow."
Franklin Gutierrez was back in center field for Thursday's 10:10 a.m. PT getaway game after sitting out Wednesday's 10-0 loss to rest his legs as he eases his way back from a two-month absence following a concussion.
"He should be fine," Wedge said. "We'll just keep an eye on his schedule and an eye on him and work him back in. He said he had some Spring Training legs going, so we just didn't want to push that. It's been an odd year for him, through no fault of his own. We'll give him days here and there."