Blue Jays targeting late April for Saunders' return

Recovering from knee surgery, outfielder running and taking swings, but not cleared for full activity

Blue Jays targeting late April for Saunders' return

NEW YORK -- Left fielder Michael Saunders appears to be a couple of weeks away from making his debut in a Blue Jays uniform.

Saunders is still recovering from left knee surgery, which caused him to miss all of Spring Training. He recently began running on a treadmill and continues to serve as the designated hitter in Minor League games, but he needs additional time before resuming full baseball activities.

The 28-year-old is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on Saturday, but a more likely scenario would see Saunders skip that series in Baltimore and possibly the first two sets at home from April 13-19.

"It's going to be a couple of more weeks anyways before we see him, but he's progressing," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "He has been able to swing the bat, he just hasn't been able to run, but it's starting to move along."

Saunders sustained the left knee injury while shagging fly balls at the club's Minor League complex a couple of days before camp officially opened. He stepped on the head of a sprinkler and tore the meniscus in his knee.

The native of Victoria, British Columbia, was originally expected to be out until the All-Star break, but he opted to have the meniscus removed instead of repaired, which sped up the recovery process.

Saunders, who was acquired from the Mariners in an offseason deal for left-hander J.A. Happ, hit eight home runs and had 34 RBIs with a .791 OPS in 78 games with Seattle last year. Kevin Pillar will start in left field until Saunders is ready to return from the DL.

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.