Opening Day return for Saunders still possible

Left fielder had 60 percent of meniscus removed Feb. 27

Opening Day return for Saunders still possible

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays left fielder Michael Saunders is showing early signs of progress in his rehab from left knee surgery and is expected to increase baseball activities over the next few days.

Saunders threw catch with trainer George Poulis on Friday morning and likely will begin swinging off a tee at some point this weekend. An exact timeframe for his return won't be known for at least another week, but Opening Day has yet to be ruled out.

Outlook: Saunders, OF, TOR

The 28-year-old Saunders recently underwent surgery to remove 60 percent of the meniscus from his left knee. The fact that the meniscus was removed instead of repaired means that he'll return in April as opposed to the All-Star break.

"He stood in when pitchers were throwing their bullpens so he was tracking some balls," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "It's really surprising because we thought, '[He would miss] the first half, uh oh,' but he's going along pretty good."

The real test for Saunders' knee will come when he starts running. He's scheduled to visit with a doctor on Sunday to get an update on the knee, but in the meantime, Saunders will continue doing light work on the field while also going through a series of strength exercises in the weight room.

Kevin Pillar remains the favorite to start in left field if Saunders requires some time on the disabled list. At the latest, Saunders should be ready by the club's home opener vs. Tampa Bay on April 13.

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.