6/27/2014 8:18 P.M. ET
Mariners activate Saunders, option Montero
By Greg Johns / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- Mariners right fielder Michael Saunders was activated off the 15-day disabled list and immediately inserted back in the starting lineup for Friday night's series opener against the Indians.
Though Saunders fared well hitting first and second prior to injuring his right shoulder, manager Lloyd McClendon penciled him into the No. 7 spot while sticking with Endy Chavez and James Jones atop the order.
"Having him in the seven-hole obviously gives us a little bit deeper lineup," McClendon said. "Endy and Jones have been doing a good job up top and it makes sense."
Saunders was hitting .265 with four home runs, 23 RBIs and a .429 slugging percentage when he went on the disabled list June 11 with inflammation in his shoulder after feeling some tightness while swinging the bat. He hit .450 (9-for-20) with two doubles, a triple, a home run and seven RBIs in five games for Tacoma during his rehab stint.
"I was just looking to see some pitches when I first got out there and as I got more comfortable, I got more aggressive," Saunders said. "I'm just looking to keep the same approach up here."
To make room on the 25-man roster, the Mariners optioned designated hitter/first baseman Jesus Montero to Tacoma. The 24-year-old hit .286 (4-for-14) with a home run in five games for the Mariners. He batted .270 with an .800 OPS, eight homers and 40 RBIs in 59 games for the Rainiers before his promotion to Seattle on June 12.
Saunders spent the minimum time on the disabled list, but said he's 100 percent healthy and ready to roll.
"There was a point last year that was a crucial learning experience for me," he said. "Coming back from the same injury -- mind you, it was a little worse last year -- but I felt I might have come back a little too early, before I was ready. So going down early enough and getting five games and 15-20 at-bats made me trust it. Something I learned with rehab is usually the last 5-10 percent is trusting you are healthy and it's hard to really let things go and play the way you normally do after you've hurt something. So I was able to do that without any limitations and I wouldn't be here today if I wasn't ready."
The Mariners have deemed their two other rehabbing position players -- first baseman Justin Smoak and designated hitter Corey Hart -- to not be ready yet. Though both are now eligible to come off the DL, they stayed with Tacoma on its current trip to El Paso, Texas.
"We're just trying to get them to 100 percent," McClendon said. "Not 80 percent. 100 percent. And they're getting there."
Smoak is recovering from a strained quad muscle in his left leg that landed him in the DL on June 10, while Hart is on the mend from a strained left hamstring that has sidelined him for five weeks.
Paxton progressing, throws bullpen session
SEATTLE -- Mariners southpaw James Paxton, who has been dealing with shoulder issues since his second start of the season in early April, took another step in his latest comeback attempt as he threw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Friday afternoon at Safeco Field.
Paxton went through the entire rehab process once already, but had to be shut back down after experiencing soreness following a three-inning start for Triple-A Tacoma on May 24. Now he's building his arm strength back up and says he'll throw another bullpen session, likely on Monday.
Paxton said everything went well in Friday's limited session.
"The first 10 [pitches] were with the catcher on the plate. The last 15 he was back in normal position and I was throwing fastballs, four-seam, two-seam and the changeup," Paxton said. "It all felt really good, felt really smooth. The ball was at the bottom of the zone, so it was good."
The 25-year-old is 5-0 with a 1.75 in six career starts, so the Mariners are eager to get him back. But they're being careful with the 25-year-old and Paxton said he has no timetable for a possible return.
"Right now we're just thinking bullpens, and then we'll go on to sim games and from there will go to rehab assignment," he said. "We just haven't really got to that point yet."
Seager works himself onto All-Star radar
SEATTLE -- The Mariners haven't had a starting position player in the All-Star Game since right fielder Ichiro Suzuki's 10-year run ended in 2010, but fans have a chance to change that if Robinson Cano maintains his current lead at second base.
That bid is now down to online voting only as in-stadium balloting has concluded. But fans have one final week to cast their votes for starting position players in the American and National leagues - either online or on mobile devices.
The next American League voting results will be released Monday and full squads for both the AL and NL teams, including pitchers, will be announced on Sunday, July 6.
Cano was the only Mariners player among the top five at his position in the latest balloting released by Major League Baseball. But a case certainly could be made Kyle Seager to make a late push at third base as he's posted some of the best numbers in baseball in the last few weeks.
Seager has hit .391 with eight runs, six doubles, three home runs and 15 RBIs over his last 12 games heading into Friday's series opener with Cleveland. He's tied for eighth among all AL hitters in RBIs with 54 and leads the Mariners with 12 home runs.
Seager's numbers are very comparable to Josh Donaldson of the A's, who currently leads the third-base voting. Donaldson was hitting .249 with an .805 OPS, 18 home runs and 56 RBIs going into Friday's action.
Seager is hitting .267 with an .824 OPS, with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs. Seager has the most doubles of any AL third baseman at 19, is second in hits to Evan Longoria of the Rays, first in triples with three, tied for second in home runs and RBIs behind Donaldson and is second to Adrian Beltre of the Rangers in batting average and OPS.
Yet Seager isn't among the top five third base vote-getters, which currently are Donaldson, Beltre, Manny Machado of the Orioles, Longoria and Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays.
Cano obviously has more name familiarity as a five-time All-Star with the Yankees and ranks among the league leaders in batting average at .324. The veteran second baseman held a solid lead over Boston's Dustin Pedroia in the most-recent voting results, but will be looking to finish with a strong push as he shoots for his fifth straight starting spot.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 8:59 p.m. PT. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
• McClendon said he's not ready yet to announce Monday's starter against the Astros, which is listed as TBA for now since Erasmo Ramirez's demotion to Tacoma. All signs point to Taijuan Walker as being the likely callup, but McClendon isn't ready to commit to any decision since no roster move will be required until Monday.
Reliever Brandon Maurer was promoted in the interim to give the Mariners an extra bullpen arm. But while Maurer threw extremely well in a two-inning stint Wednesday, McClendon acknowledged it would be difficult to see the youngster replacing any of the current relievers based strictly on one outing.