SEATTLE -- Michael Saunders had to watch from the bench for the final six contests of a seven-game road trip because of a strained right groin. But the Mariners are back home and Saunders returned to the lineup on Friday, hitting sixth and playing right field.
Unfortunately, he couldn't stay there. Saunders left the game against the Angels after the fourth inning and was replaced by Eric Thames. Manager Eric Wedge said he is day to day and would be evaluated Saturday morning.
Saunders appeared to favor his right groin after sprinting to his left to catch a line drive off of Torii Hunter's bat in the fourth inning. He walked gingerly back to his position and cautiously shook his right leg. Albert Pujols immediately followed with a single to right and Saunders fielded it without incident, although he appeared to still be favoring his groin.
"He went for that ball in the corner, made a nice catch, but I could tell that he was still feeling it a little bit," Wedge said. "It's nothing worse. The progress he's made, we still have that, but I didn't take an chances on it and have him make another play and reinjure it. So we got him out of there."
Saunders was originally injured during a collision with Thames in the outfield on Aug. 24 and didn't want to rush back and miss the rest of the season.
"He's been working hard to get back in there, so nice to get him back in there," Wedge said before the game. "Obviously, keep a close eye on him, but we feel confident he's ready to play."
The big worry with aggravating the injury was with quick, sudden movements. Saunders was be able to control that out of the batter's box, and admitted he'd be careful the first few steps. Chasing down balls in the outfield was the bigger issue, and that appeared to have been borne out.