Saunders makes return from DL in right field

Left-handed bat out since July 10 with strained oblique

Saunders makes return from DL in right field

SEATTLE -- Outfielder Michael Saunders was activated from the 15-day disabled list by the Mariners and immediately inserted into the lineup Monday to face the Astros in the opener of a three-game series at Safeco Field.

Saunders has been out since straining his left oblique muscle on July 10. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Aug. 7 and hit .257 in 10 games, but was sidelined by a viral infection on Aug. 19 and hasn't played in a game since.

"It's been extremely frustrating," Saunders said. "I was ready to go with my oblique and then I got sick. That couldn't have come at a worse time. But that's behind me. I'm focusing on what's ahead for September. It's fun. These games mean something. We're looking at one goal and that is to make the playoffs. Things are looking good."

The sixth-year veteran has been working out and playing in simulated games at the team's Minor League facility in Peoria, Ariz., for the last week.

"We did the best we could do," manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He took some batting practice, ran, threw. From a conditioning standpoint, he's ready to go. I don't know if he's game ready or not, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hopefully he can jump-start us."

With left fielder Dustin Ackley sidelined by a sore left ankle, Saunders was penciled into the lineup in right field for Monday's game against the Astros, with Endy Chavez shifting over to left.

Saunders said he's regained the 12 pounds he lost during his illness and feels fully prepared after going through what he compared to a brief Spring Training situation at the Peoria complex as he worked out with other players rehabbing from injuries.

"I wouldn't be in the lineup if I wasn't ready to go," he said. "That wouldn't be fair to the team just to shove me back out there. We're going for the playoffs. It's playoffs or bust."

Saunders has hit .276 with six home runs and 28 RBIs in 65 games this season for the Mariners, while spending two separate stints on the disabled list with a shoulder injury and then the strained oblique.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.