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Blue Jays sign Saunders to Minors deal

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays brought back a familiar face on Tuesday afternoon by signing veteran outfielder Michael Saunders to a Minor League contract.

Saunders will report to Triple-A Buffalo at some point later this week. He provides some much-needed depth in the outfield and eventually could become a platoon partner for Steve Pearce, depending on what other events happen at the big league level.

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays brought back a familiar face on Tuesday afternoon by signing veteran outfielder Michael Saunders to a Minor League contract.

Saunders will report to Triple-A Buffalo at some point later this week. He provides some much-needed depth in the outfield and eventually could become a platoon partner for Steve Pearce, depending on what other events happen at the big league level.

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The 30-year-old Saunders recently was designated for assignment by the Phillies after he hit .205/.257/.360 with six homers and 20 RBIs over 61 games. He initially joined Philadelphia on a one-year deal worth $8 million and a $1 million buyout for 2018.

"They mentioned they wanted to do it and I said, 'Yeah send him down to Triple-A and see if he can get going,'" Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "You never know. Mike's one of the good guys. An old pro. I like it."

Saunders spent two years with the Blue Jays from 2015-16. He was acquired in a trade for lefty J.A. Happ but missed all but nine games in 2015 because of knee surgery and an ensuing bone bruise. He returned to the field last season and was named to the All-Star team after hitting 16 homers with 42 RBIs in the first half.

Video: ALCS Gm3: Saunders hits a solo home run to left

The second half was a struggle for Saunders, as a .178/.282/.357 slash line eventually led to Ezequiel Carrera stealing away most of the playing time. Saunders did finish strong with seven hits in 19 postseason at-bats, but Toronto opted to go in a different direction during the offseason.

The Blue Jays are committed to Pearce as the everyday man in left, but the club lacked depth beyond its current starters. Carrera recently returned from the disabled list but Dalton Pompey, Darrell Ceciliani and prospect Anthony Alford are among those still hurt.

Sanchez to make another rehab start

Right-hander Aaron Sanchez is expected to make one more rehab start before rejoining the Blue Jays before the All-Star break. Sanchez made his first rehab appearance for Class A Advanced Dunedin on Monday night and allowed three runs on six hits over 3 2/3 innings. He struck out three and walked two while throwing 36 of his 64 pitches for strikes.

Toronto has yet to determine whether Sanchez's next outing will come for Dunedin or Triple-A Buffalo. But if all goes well in that start, Sanchez will be back in the rotation for a weekend series at home vs. Houston from July 7-9. He has been out since May 19 because of a blister on his right middle finger.

"He felt great," Gibbons said. "I talked to him last night and he said he had no issues at all with the finger, which is the important thing. He'll make his next start. Hopefully that goes well and he'll be back. I don't think he'll need another one, we'll see how the next one goes."

The Blue Jays have not announced what will happen when Sanchez returns, but the expectation is that right-hander Joe Biagini will return to the bullpen. Gibbons all but officially ruled out sending Biagini to the Minor Leagues to continue starting and he also added the club expects to keep lefty Francisco Liriano in a starting role.

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

Toronto Blue Jays