Mariners’ Saunders starts rehab assignment Thursday in Tacoma

SEATTLE — Plans call for Seattle Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders to start a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A Tacoma when the Rainiers open a five-game series against Fresno at Cheney Stadium.

“He’ll DH to start with,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’ll try to get him five, six or seven (innings).”

Saunders suffered a strained left oblique on a swing in a July 10 game at Minnesota. He was batting .276 with six homers and 28 RBI in 65 games while compiling a .327 on-base percentage and a .434 slugging percentage.

How soon could he return?

“It depends on his physical capabilities,” McClendon said. “How he bounces back. But he’s got to be swinging well. I don’t want you wasting at-bats here. If you’re going to waste them, waste them in a rehab start.”

Bloomquist evaluating options

Injured utilityman Willie Bloomquist is seeking additional medical evaluations in an effort to determine why he is recovering slowly from a bruised right knee.

Bloomquist suffered the injury July 23 and admitted Tuesday that he’s not yet close to be able to jog. McClendon acknowledged Bloomquist isn’t likely to be ready for active duty in the near future.

“Not good,” McClendon said. “He’s getting his second opinion. There’s a chance he may have to do something to get it taken care of. He just has not progressed to the point where we think he’s going to be ready any time soon.”

That “something,” McClendon said, could include arthroscopic surgery or extended rest.

Taylor steps up

Rookie shortstop Chris Taylor, for now anyway, appears to have grabbed hold of a starting job. He has hits in all eight of his starts and has displayed sound defense.

“He’s performing well,” McClendon said. “He’s swinging the bat well. He’s playing solid defense. Brad (Miller) will get in there from time to time but, right, now, Taylor is going to play a little bit more.”

Taylor is batting .367 after going 1-for-2 with a walk and a sacrifice fly in Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over the Braves. He has started eight of 12 games since his July 24 promotion from Tacoma, where he batted .328 in 75 games.

Miller is batting .199 with eight homers and 26 RBI in 90 games.

King’s numbers

Felix Hernandez added to his major-league record in Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over the Braves by pitching at least seven innings for a 15th straight start while allowing two or fewer runs.

That’s two games longer than Tom Seaver’s previous record of 13 straight starts in 1971 for the New York Mets.

Hernandez also tied a major-league record set in 1974 by Gaylord Perry in holding an opponent to two or fewer earned runs in 15 straight starts while pitching at least seven innings.

Looking back

It was five years ago Thursday — Aug. 7, 2009 — that Ken Griffey Jr. punctuated Ken Griffey Jr. Bobblehead Night by hitting his 623rd career homer in a 7-6 victory over Tampa Bay in 11 innings at Safeco Field.

That game was also notable because:

¦ Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-5 for the 603rd multi-hit game in what was then the ninth season of his career. That broke Rogers Hornsby’s record for a nine-year span since the end of the Dead Ball Era (1920).

¦ Ryan Langerhans won the game with a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer in the 11th against reliever J.P. Howell after the Rays took a one-run lead in the top of the inning on a Jason Bartlett homer against Shawn Kelley.

On tap

The Mariners open a four-game weekend series against the Chicago White Sox at 7:10 p.m. Thursday at Safeco Field.

Rookie left-hander Roenis Elias (8-9 with a 4.19 ERA) will oppose Chicago right-hander Scott Carroll (4-6, 4.36). Root Sports will telecast the game.

The series continues Friday and Saturday nights before concluding Sunday afternoon. Toronto arrives Monday for a three-game series that completes the homestand.

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