OTTAWA – For Mike Saunders, the 2009 season has been a breath of fresh air. The Victoria, BC native is enjoying a great start in his first full season in Triple-A with the Tacoma Rainers of the Pacific Coast League.
The Seattle Mariners farmhand is hitting .294 with seven home runs and 21 RBI through 40 games so far this season. But only a few months ago, things were not coming as easy.
The 2008 season was full of ups and downs for Saunders. The ups featured a trip to the Olympics in Beijing and his first promotion to Triple-A. The downs however were appearing in only 91 games last season due to an injury in his throwing shoulder.
The injury required surgery in the off-season and the 6’4”, 205 lbs outfielder did not break camp with the club and stayed behind in Extended Spring Training to continue with rehab to begin the season.
But when Saunders was activated on April 30th, he was ready to go and wasted no time showing it by hitting a three-run home run in his second at-bat of the season. He is also back in the outfield on an everyday basis since returning to action.
“I’m 100 percent now and each day my arm is getting stronger and stronger,” says Saunders. “I can make the good hard throws from the outfield if I need to and it feels really good.”
“Last year it was always on my mind and I was really hesitant to really let it go and now I can just go out there and play without any worries.”
Now that he is back at full strength, Saunders is back on track and continuing to turn heads in the Mariners organization. There have been constant rumblings that the 22-year-old will be making his Major League debut before the end of the season, and sooner rather than later.
But in typical fashion of any Minor Leaguer, Saunders tries not to allow those thoughts of a possible promotion become a distraction that lingers in his mind.
“I really try to stay away from all of that and just work hard every day. I just try to improve myself everyday here and take care of the things I can control.”
“I can’t control who gets called up when or where and how the big club is doing, so I just try as much as possible to stay out of that and concentrate on what I can control here in Triple-A.”
So as Saunders continues on his torrid pace to begin the season, he credits his consistency in the field and at the plate for his fast start and he looks to maintain that outlook he has had to begin the year.
“You know, everyone has slumps in baseball. It’s going to happen. Even the best players in the world go 0-for-15. I think how quickly you can rebound from that is the key. So I try to never get too down on myself and just stay positive.”
So far, Saunders is hitting on all cylinders.