Michael Saunders on track to return early next week

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Greg Johns of MLB.com reports that Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders is scheduled to spend the weekend on a minor league rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma before returning to Seattle’s active 25-man roster at some point early next week.

Saunders has been on the 15-day disabled list since suffering a right shoulder sprain when he crashed into the outfield wall at Safeco Field on April 11. He is eligible to be activated Friday but the M’s want him to get some tune-up at-bats in the minor leagues.

“Saunders definitely is headed in the right direction,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. “I think he needs to play for a couple days [in the minors]. … We’ve definitely missed him. He’s a big part of this club.”

Saunders will play center field when he returns because Franklin Gutierrez is injured yet again.

The 26-year-old native of Canada was batting .286 with an .833 OPS, one home run, and five RBI and three stolen bases in 34 plate appearances before the sholder sprain. He had 19 homers and 21 steals in 2012.

Albert Pujols hit his 597th career home run

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Angels DH Albert Pujols smacked his 597th career home run, a two-run shot in the top of the first inning during Wednesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Rays. The blast was off of Erasmo Ramirez and marked No. 6 on the season for the future Hall of Famer.

Pujols finished 1-for-3 with the homer and a walk. After Wednesday’s game, he’s hitting a lackluster .244/.296/.378 with 34 RBI and 14 runs scored in 186 trips to the plate.

Pujols currently ranks ninth on baseball’s all-time leaderboard and is three shy of joining the 600-homer club. He’s currently 13 home runs away from tying Sammy Sosa for eighth all-time.

Chris Sale’s streak of starts with at least 10 strikeouts ends

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Red Sox starter Chris Sale entered Wednesday’s outing against the Rangers with at least 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive starts, tying a record he already shared with Pedro Martinez. He failed do break the record, racking up only six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. Fortunately, the Red Sox scored seven runs in the bottom of the seventh to put him in line for the win. Sale gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk.

After Wednesday’s outing, Sale is sitting on a 2.34 ERA with a 101/14 K/BB ratio in 73 innings. So far, so good for the Red Sox, who acquired Sale from the White Sox in December.

Sale previously racked up 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive games between May 23 and June 30 in 2015 with the White Sox. Pedro Martinez accomplished the feat for the Red Sox between August 19 and September 27 in 1999.