DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders wants to make one thing clear: He was the one who decided the best course of action was to remove 60 percent of the meniscus from his left knee.
Saunders underwent surgery on Friday afternoon, and the fact that his meniscus was removed instead of repaired means he'll return in approximately five-to-six weeks. If the doctor had fixed the cartilage, Saunders would have been out until the All-Star break.
Removing the meniscus means that Saunders has a greater chance of having health problems such as arthritis later in life. But after doing lots of research and having conversations with his agent, family and other players he decided this was the best course of action.
"First and foremost, I want everyone to know that I made this decision on my own," Saunders said Saturday afternoon. "Yesterday morning, a few hours before surgery, I was starting to have a change of heart about repairing it, compared to removing it. So I did a lot of research, I talked to a lot of professionals, and I came down to the decision that I felt like was in my best interest, as well as deep down in my heart, it's what I wanted to do.
"That being said, the Blue Jays organization had the best interest in mind about my future. At first they were trying to talk to me out of it. But after I sat down and had some long talks with people, they understood where I was coming from. After we had the conversations, they fully supported my decision to get [the meniscus] removed."
In the end, the meniscus was so severely damaged that it would have needed to be removed anyways, but Saunders' preference going into the procedure was the shorter rehab time. Even if the meniscus had been repaired, there was only a 60 percent chance the procedure would have been effective, and that wasn't a chance Saunders was prepared to take.
The 28-year-old was left broken hearted earlier this week after he tore the meniscus while shagging fly balls. It seemed like a worst-case scenario to the start of his tenure in a Blue Jays uniform. Saunders spent the winter talking about how excited he was to be coming back to his home country, and the possibility of a four-month absence left him visibly shaken.
That level of depression has since been replaced with renewed hope for the season. Saunders doesn't know exactly when he'll be back, but he's expected to resume running in approximately two weeks. Saunders likely will return at some point in the middle of April, but even making the team by Opening Day hasn't been completely ruled out.
"Later in life there are possible risks," Saunders admitted. "Nothing is a slam dunk, but there are possible risks for early on-set arthritis ... You never know about a knee replacment but I could go through life as normal as anyone else. I knew those risks going into it. Alex [Anthopoulos], the organization, the front office, the training staff, the team doctor, everyone made me aware of the possible risks ... but that's not going to happen until much later in my life and I won't be playing baseball at that point.
"Right now, I'm a baseball player, I'm not going to have any problems while I play. I've talked to a lot of people that had their meniscus taken out and they're doing just fine, they feel like the exact same player that they were previously. Hopefully, knock on wood, nothing happens later in life, it it does I'll deal with it at that point. Right now, I'm a Toronto Blue Jay and I'm excited to be here."
Saunders' desire to return to the field so quickly is admirable, and comes on the heels of a controversial end to his tenure in Seattle. At the end of the 2014 season, Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik openly questioned his work ethic and desire to return to the field following an injury plagued season in Seattle.
The comments came despite the fact that Saunders appeared in at least 132 games from 2012-13. Saunders is hoping to be able to play that much in Toronto once the knee heals.
"My first thought went to my children," Saunders said. "Later on in life I want to be the dad that gets to play with them, run around with them, that was my original thought, I need to be in tip-top shape when I'm 45- 50-years-old. As I started doing more research and started to understand the state my knee was in, I started questioning what was really the right decision to make.
"Information is key to anything in life and the more information I received, not only from other people, but the more information I received on the state of my knee, helped make my decision a lot easier and I had the full support of everyone around me."