When Michael Saunders’ bat went flying end-over-end toward the Fresno dugout after clipping a foul ball on a 3-2 count, an old friend and former Rainiers player was in the way: Guillermo Quiroz, one of the Grizzlies’ catchers.
Fortunately, Quiroz dodged the bat. Unfortunately, Saunders popped out to right field on the following pitch
He had to wait until the seventh inning for his first hit in Tacoma’s 11-4 loss on Thursday night at Cheney Stadium.
But that was OK with him.
“I’ve been out for a month now, so it’s going to take a little time to get my timing back,” Saunders said. “Everything feels good. I had to go through some tests and workouts before I was sent down. Running feels good, swinging feels good, throwing feels good.”
Saunders’ rehab start, and outfielder Stefen Romero’s three-hit night, which included a solo home run in the sixth, were just about all that appealed on the game for Tacoma.
In his four at-bats, Saunders singled, drew a walk, struck out, and popped out.
“I saw a lot of pitches and got into a lot of deep counts,” Saunders said. “I’m not going to go out there trying to get hits, I’m just trying to go out there and have good professional at-bats and you can’t really control the outcome. That’s my mindset anytime I play.”
The Mariners have Saunders on a tentative schedule while he recovers from a strained left oblique, which will likely include a few more starts with the Rainiers over their next four home games against Fresno.
Seattle placed Saunders on the disabled list July 11. He missed time earlier in the season because of a shoulder injury.
Saunders’ lone hit came on an 0-2 count in the seventh, when he connected on a short hopper in the infield. Fresno second baseman Tony Abreu caught the ball on the run to make it a race for the out, but his late throw to Grizzlies first baseman Adam Duvall allowed Saunders to record the single.
“I’m not starting from ground zero like it would be for spring training,” Saunders said. “It was fun to get out there and compete again.”
Saunders’ time on base after his walk in the fifth was cut short when he was tagged out in a rundown stealing from first to second.
For the rest of Tacoma’s offense, it took until the sixth to muster anything more than two base hits by outfielder Romero.
The Rainiers continue their five-game homestand against the Grizzlies at 7:05 p.m. Friday Tacoma is scheduled to start right-hander Forrest Snow (1-2, 1.31 ERA) against right-hander Austin Fleet (2-0, 6.55 ERA). The game can be heard on 850-AM.