Saunders works out at Safeco, could return Friday

Saunders works out at Safeco, could return Friday

SEATTLE -- With Triple-A Tacoma off on Wednesday, Michael Saunders was at Safeco Field doing some pregame outfield work during batting practice prior to the Mariners' game with the Red Sox.

Saunders is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Thursday, which is an off-day, so he is a likely candidate to rejoin the club on Friday after hitting .450 (9-for-20) in five rehab starts with the Rainiers as he recovers from a sore right shoulder.

Manager Lloyd McClendon was non-committal on when Saunders, Justin Smoak (strained quad) and Corey Hart (strained hamstring) might rejoin the club, but he noted that El Paso -- where the Rainiers head for a four-game series starting Thursday -- is close to Houston, presuming Smoak and Hart are on that trip. The Mariners open a three-game road series Monday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Both Smoak and Hart are now eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list as soon as they're deemed ready. Smoak has hit .222 (6-for-27) in seven rehab games, while Hart is batting .294 (5-for-17) in four games. Position players are eligible to spend up to 20 days in the Minors on a rehab stint.

"The biggest thing for me is to make sure they're healthy and 100 percent," McClendon said. "That in combination with getting some at-bats and getting sharp, we're just going to take full advantage of it. When we think they're healthy enough and ready to go here, then they'll come here."

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.