Saunders took batting practice in Dunedin and worked on agility drills again Thursday — continued signs that he is recovering ahead of schedule from a meniscus tear he suffered in the first week of training camp.
That timetable was originally pegged at the all-star break. Saunders underwent a surgical procedure and was using crutches to move around. Since then, he’s improved dramatically, and returned to baseball activity ahead of time Wednesday.
The Jays suffered a massive loss with Marcus Stroman’s season-ending knee injury Tuesday. Saunders’ progress has helped lighten the mood in camp a bit, as well as help shape management’s decisions for the outfield.
In the meantime, Gibbons and the Jays are feeling very confident with starter Drew Hutchison, who has given up just two hits in two scoreless spring appearances (six innings, including four on Wednesday in Sarasota against the Orioles).
Hutchison has progressed nicely through camp. That’s encouraging for the team, given Stroman’s loss, and the higher expectations this season after his first full year in 2014 following Tommy John surgery.
“He’s answered that question,” Gibbons said about Hutchison’s overall rebound from surgery.
“He’s got command and he’s tightened up his slider, and he’s tougher on (left-handed hitters), so that’s big for him. He’s just a great competitor too. He’s an athlete, a good pitcher, there’s something different in there about him.”