TORONTO -- Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders suffered a setback to his surgically repaired left knee and had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday morning with inflammation.
The Blue Jays selected the contract of utilty man Steve Tolleson from Triple-A Buffalo to take Saunders' spot on the roster. Minor League right-hander Preston Guilmet was designated for assignment as part of the corresponding move.
Saunders' injury is yet another blow to what has become a frustrating first two months of the season for him. He missed almost all of April while recovering from surgery to remove 60 percent of the meniscus from his left knee.
"It's tough," Saunders said Sunday morning. "It's feeling better than it was in Cleveland when I got it drained. But it's gotten to the point where it's affecting my ability to play the game. I tried to grind through it the last couple of weeks or so and it's gotten to the point where it's affecting me and it's not fair to anybody, myself or the team."
The 28-year-old returned April 25, but clearly wasn't himself on the field. Saunders was noticeably limping at times and didn't appear to have much mobility while running the bases or playing left field.
Saunders eventually sat out four games this week after he received a cortisone shot and had fluid drained from his knee. He was optimistic that would be enough to solve the problem and said Friday that his knee felt "100 times better."
That allowed Saunders to get back into the lineup Saturday afternoon against the Red Sox. He went 0-for-4 and made a nice running catch in left, but the pain never completely went away and he'll need an extended period of time off to properly rehabilitate the injury.
"It's not about one play," Saunders said. "I've been trying to grind through this thing for a little bit. But it's time. Everything in this game is about your base and your lower half. When I swing, I'm losing my back knee. I can't sit on it. The power comes from the ground up and everything has to do with your legs. I don't think it will be a long time. I'm expecting that rest will be the answer."
The setback is another blow to a Blue Jays outfield that is already banged up. Jose Bautista hasn't played in the field since April 21 because of a strained right shoulder. Toronto likely will continue to use Kevin Pillar in center field while Chris Colabello, Ezequiel Carrera and Tolleson split time in left and right field.
Tolleson was designated for assignment April 25, but cleared waivers and eventually was outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo. Tolleson declined the assignment and became a free agent, then re-signed with the club on a Minor League deal.
The reason for the brief time in free agency was to circumvent MLB rules that says a player who gets outrighted to the Minors cannot be recalled for at least 10 days. That created a few more options for Tolleson and a spot on the roster became available when Saunders was placed on the DL.
Guilmet made 10 appearances for Buffalo this season and allowed two runs over 14 1/3 innings. He has spent parts of two seasons in the big leagues with Cleveland and Baltimore and has a career 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings.
"It's tough for me to keep in mind right now but it is a long season," Saunders said. "Missing 15 games in May doesn't mean the season's over by any means. If I can come back strong and work my way into playing every day, my goal is to help the team. Right now I'm having trouble doing that."
Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.