Michael Saunders would not change a thing.
If he could go back in time and replay the situation from Wednesday night – same fly ball, same nasty crash into the wall, same highlight-reel catch – he would do it all again because that’s who he is and that’s how he’s going to play.
Of course, there were repercussions.
The team announced Thursday that Saunders had been placed on the 15-day disabled list with at sprained right shoulder sustained while making that impressive catch on Jose Altuve’s first-inning fly to right field.
“If I could do it all over again, I’d do the exact same thing,” he said. “As an outfielder, I’m there to make the catch. I’m not pulling up because of the wall. I knew I could catch it. At the last second, I kind of reached out.”
The one thing he’d probably like to change from the play is the injury.
“I guess I did kind of put myself in harm’s way,” he said. “But if I’m going to go down, it’s going to be because I play aggressively. That’s going to be how I go throughout my career. I’m not going to shy away from the wall.”
Saunders was in good spirits Thursday. He found out after the game that it was only a sprain. It looked like it could have been much worse.
“Out of a bad situation, it was the best-case scenario, the best outcome that could have happened,” he said. “We have to wait for the inflammation to go down. As soon as that happens, we can get to work on it. I’m going to bust my ass to work hard to get back in there. It’s not a serious injury, so that’s encouraging. But it certainly is going to be a couple of days.”
A couple of days? That’s the hockey player in Saunders talking. It will be longer than that.
“He’s better today,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “He’s feeling it, obviously. It’s going to be a couple weeks at least so we had to put him on the DL, and trust me he didn’t want to go on the DL, he’s got that hockey mentality. But we had to do what’s best for him and what’s best for the ball club. So that’s why we had to make a move.”
Veteran Endy Chavez was called up from Triple-A Tacoma and added to the roster. He arrived shortly before game time from Sacramento, where the Rainiers were finishing their season-opening road trip. To make room for Chavez on the 40-man roster, the Mariners designated right-handed pitcher D.J. Mitchell, who was also with the Rainiers, for assignment.
As tough as Saunders is, he was admittedly a little panicked as he lay on the warning track in right field after making the catch. At first, he thought he had broken his collarbone. He also had surgery to repair a torn labrum in the shoulder in 2008, and thoughts of reinjuring it began to creep into his mind.
“When I hit the wall and fell over, everything sort of went numb,” he said. “My initial reaction, I thought my collarbone. I definitely thought something was wrong. A little fear set in.”
But Saunders met with doctors, had several tests and X-rays and was told there was no damage to the labrum or rotator cuff.
At the time he didn’t notice it, but after watching replays, he saw the rest of his teammates on the field gathered around him.
“I saw the replay and realized it wasn’t just the outfielders, but the infielders came out to check on me,” he said. “They say it’s kind of like a family away from your family, and that’s what this clubhouse truly is. We’re all friends. We’re all rooting for each other. When something like that happens, it’s scary, because you just don’t know what it is. It was really nice to see that replay and see all the guys came out to check on me. It makes me feel part of this club.”
A good reason for that is Saunders’ relentless and fearless attitude on the field. He plays hard, and his teammates respect it. That won’t change.
“I play aggressive,” he said. “Until I’m not able to wear a uniform any more, that’s the way I’m going to play. If I am going to go down, it will be because I’m playing aggressively. I pride myself on being pretty healthy. I take good care of my body. You can’t help the club unless you’re on the field, unless you’re able to play. I take pride in that.”
ACKLEY GETS A NIGHT OFF
Dustin Ackley was given the day off on Thursday despite right-hander Justin Grimm being on the mound. Ackley had started the past seven games and was just 3-for-30 (.100) with a .182 on-base percentage.
“I feel it’s what he needs, quite frankly,” Wedge said. “Obviously, he’s one of the guys we have to get going. We are giving him a day, giving him a chance for a good work day. And go from there.”
Robert Andino got the start for Ackley at second base.
“I want to continue to get Robert in there,” Wedge said. “He’s worked so hard this spring to be a more consistent player with his approach in batting practice and how he’s brought that in that games, how hard he’s worked to be more consistent defensively. I think he deserves to play.”
It will be a matchup of the two best Japanese pitchers in major league baseball tonight at 7:10. The Mariners will send right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma (1-0, 2.57 ERA) to the mound, while the Rangers counter with right-hander Yu Darvish (2-0, 1.98 ERA). The game will be broadcast on Root Sports and 710-AM.
Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483