Saunders’ left knee ‘definitely getting better’

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders only appeared in nine games last year.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The bone bruise in Michael Saunders’ surgically repaired left knee is healing and the Toronto Blue Jays outfielder hopes to begin load-bearing exercises in about two weeks, with a rehab assignment to follow shortly thereafter.

An MRI exam Monday revealed that the injury “is definitely getting better,” Saunders said Tuesday during a visit with his teammates at Tropicana Field. He remains in a period of rest for his knee, limited to upper-body work, isolated exercises for other parts of his leg and work in the pool.

“It’s a matter of being patient, which is most frustrating,” he said, adding later: “I’m starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Saunders has been on the DL since May 10, missing 40 games during that span. He was initially injured in spring training when he landed awkwardly on a practice field soft spot caused by a broken water main, leading to surgery that removed torn meniscus.

He returned to play nine games before suffering the bone bruise.

“This isn’t necessarily common but it has happened before and the annoying thing with the bruise is you’ve just got to rest it, otherwise it will come back and it will never go away,” said Saunders. “I’ve been going on six weeks now and it’ll be a couple more weeks but it’s definitely showing good signs of improvement comparing MRIs yesterday and six weeks ago. It’s a drastic difference in the improvement of my knee. Basically once it’s gone, I shouldn’t miss too much other than my timing.”

FIFTH MAN: The Blue Jays are reconsidering whether to skip the fifth starter’s spot and may bring up another starter for Saturday to give Drew Hutchison an extra day of rest.

Sunday’s demotion of Scott Copeland left a void in the rotation but with Thursday’s off day, they could have stayed on turn with regular rest and not need another arm until June 30. But after Hutchison threw a season-high 109 pitches in five innings Monday, that plan might change.

If they do indeed decide to go with a fifth starter, Felix Doubront is the likeliest candidate to be brought up, giving him a chance to see if he can take the role and run with it.

Should he show promise – he posted back-to-back double-digit win seasons with Boston in 2012-13 – the Blue Jays might consider bringing Aaron Sanchez back in a relief role once he’s activated off the DL.

POMPEY OK: Blue Jays outfield prospect Dalton Pompey avoided a concussion after being hit in the head by a pitch Monday night.

“We tested him and he’s clear,” said assistant GM Tony LaCava. “He should be back in there tomorrow.”

Pompey has been making progress with the double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, with four homers and 19 hits in 14 games since his arrival.