SEATTLE -- A frustrating season for Michael Saunders took another hit Friday when he got spiked in the middle finger of his right hand. He'll have to miss a few games, but the Mariners outfielder refuses to let the latest twist detract from a recent upswing at the plate.
Saunders has hit just .199 since returning from the disabled list in late April, after he slammed into the right-field wall and sprained his shoulder. His batting average has plummeted from .286 at the time of the injury to .211, but he did hit .280 (7-for-25) over his last nine games and felt he was getting back on the right track.
"I've been hitting the ball hard, but not a lot to show for it," Saunders said prior to Saturday's game against the Cubs. "That's the way the game goes sometimes. It's unfortunate and frustrating, but all you can do is keep grinding and putting up good at-bats, and eventually it'll come back to you.
"I'm not the first guy to go through this, nor will I be the last, but I feel I'll be not only a better baseball player for it, I'll be a better person for going through something like this. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I know good will come from it. It's not something I want to go through, believe me. But it's happened, and I feel like I'm digging my way out of the hole now. I just want to get back out there."
That got sidetracked a bit when Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo stepped on Saunders' right hand as he dove back to first on a pickoff attempt in the 10th inning Friday. The fingernail got crushed in the process, leaving a nasty looking finger that isn't going to allow Saunders to grip a bat or throw a ball for several days.
He stayed in and scored the winning run on Mike Zunino's bases-loaded single, but said he would have had to come out had the game continued and he'd needed to play in the outfield.
"I think I'm 'man down' for a few days, but I can pinch-run," Saunders said. "It's a weird spot, and the nail just got crushed down in, so we've got to let it heal and get the swelling down. It's uncomfortable right now, but it's not broken, so that's a good thing."
Now Saunders just wants to get healthy and back to hitting line drives that he knows will eventually fall for base hits.
"I can't get back to .300 in a week," he said. "It's just at-bat by at-bat, game by game, and keep a consistent approach, and by the end of the year, I'll be back where I need to be. There was a while there when I felt I wasn't seeing the ball well, but I'm seeing it well now, and I'm putting up good at-bats at a much more consistent level. That's what is encouraging to me. I know it's only a matter of time before things start falling."