Saunders not expected back before September

Saunders not expected back before September

SEATTLE -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons doesn't envision a scenario where injured outfielder Michael Saunders would be able to return before September.

Toronto hasn't lost hope that Saunders will be back this season, but it's clear that it won't be happening soon. The 28-year-old has appeared in just nine games as he continues to experience difficulty recovering from left knee surgery.

"The doctors saw him a few days ago," Gibbons said. "He's feeling better so that means they're increasing his activity ... but I wouldn't expect to see him before September. It turned out to be taking longer than we thought."

Saunders tore the meniscus in his left knee while shagging balls during Spring Training. He stepped on a sprinkler head at the club's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., and later underwent surgery to have 60 percent of the meniscus removed from his knee.

The native of Victoria, British Columbia, returned to the roster in late April, but clearly wasn't himself. He lacked his typical speed and lateral movement and had to be shut down again to provide more time for the healing process.

Toronto will continue using Chris Colabello, Danny Valencia and Ezequiel Carrera in left field. If the club eventually decides it needs to make another move to address the outfield, then one internal option would be rookie Dalton Pompey.

Pompey began the year as the Blue Jays' starting center fielder, but struggled early and had to be optioned to the Minors. Pompey initially had difficulty adjusting to life back in the Minors, but went on to hit .351 with 11 extra-base hits and 23 RBIs in 31 games for Double-A New Hampshire.

The 22-year-old has since continued that progression in Triple-A Buffalo and has been drawing rave reviews. He'll likely generate some interest before next Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, but if he remains with the Blue Jays, he could become an option over the final two months of the season.

"I heard it's night and day. When he first went down to Buffalo, he was struggling down there too. So they moved him down [to New Hampshire] and he regrouped. He is playing really well right now, he's moving in the right direction. Dalton has a chance to be a really good player."

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