One of the reasons that I love spending my time at the Blue Jays’ minor league complex is that you’ll get to see current and former major leaguers who are working their way back from injury. The other day, I wrote about seeing Ricky Romero pitch in the bullpen and today I saw two other players who are trying to get back into big league form.
The first, and most obvious, player is Michael Saunders. The Blue Jays acquired the Canadian-born outfielder from the Mariners this offseason for pitcher J.A. Happ and he famously tore the meniscus in his knee, stepping on a sprinkler head while shagging balls in the outfield. After the surgery to remove the damaged cartilage, Saunders has been on a rapid road to recovery and finally emerged from his cocoon to play in a minor league game this afternoon. I was there to watch and report to all of you Blue Jays fans.
Michael Saunders showed up at the minor league facility today and took the field wearing number 21 (with no name across his back) and took five at bats, leading off the first five innings of the game (that’s how they roll in minor league spring training). Saunders wasn’t running either: he just would put the ball into play and walk back to the dugout. Scott MacArthur at TSN.ca had some juicy quotes from Saunders after the game and Saunders said “My instincts were kind of making me shoot out of the box a little bit and wanting to run but after the first or second at-bat I gradually got used to it, just walking back to the dugout.” And the results were . . . that he looked like a guy who hasn’t gone up against live pitching in about a month.
Saunders went 1/5 with a single, two ground outs, a strike out and a fly out. I give him a pass on the strikeout. I don’t know who the pitcher was but he struck out all three batters he faced that inning, getting Saunders, Melky Mesa and Chris Colabello. Both Mesa and Colabello have big league experience and neither of them could get much done against the mystery Pirates pitcher. Saunders grounded out weakly twice and got a base hit by the second baseman. His temporary teammates teased him a bit about not going for second base to stretch it into a double. To my eyes, Saunders’ best contact was in his last at bat as he hit a solid fly ball to mid-left field.
All he was doing was getting his timing back and, with a few more outings like that, Saunders could be back in the major league lineup for the end of spring training.
Another player who’s trying to get back to the major leagues is left-handed reliever Luis Perez. Perez cracked the big league roster back in 2011 and injured his elbow in 2012, requiring Tommy John surgery. He managed to come back in 2013 but was a released in spring training of 2014, signing a deal with Atlanta but never suited up as he spent the season hurt. Signed to a minor league deal, the Blue Jays are bringing the 30-year-old lefty back to see if he can return to health.
On Monday, I saw Perez doing a towel drill and I saw him throw a baseball. What can I say about his bullpen session? Perez was throwing pretty hard. His fastball looked and sounded crisp and had some movement on it, tailing back towards his arm side. He was mixing in some sliders that he struggled to control but they looked like they had some nice movement. He probably threw about 20 pitches and there were four other pitchers throwing at the same time, so I obviously couldn’t see every pitch. Aside from that, he looked like he was ready to see some game action and I’m definitely rooting for him to be able to return to the effectiveness he had in 2012.
If you like us here, “like” us on Facebook!
Get ready for the All-New Blue Jays from Away Premium Content section, coming April 1! Combined with the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, it will be your best resource to the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system.
You can still purchase The 2014 Toronto Blue Jays Minor League Handbook, now available as an ebook at Smashwords.com, now at a reduced price of $2.99 US. You can purchase and preview the book at our Smashwords.com page!
The All-Star Break Supplement to the Minor League Handbook is also available at Smashwords.com for only $0.99 US! Get an update on how your favourite players did last season as well as a report on the 2014 draft!
All photos are copyright Blue Jays from Away (2013-2015) and may not be used without permission.