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.

Javier Baez, D.J. LeMahieu have disagreement about sign-stealing

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Fellow second basemen Javier Baez of the Cubs and D.J. LeMahieu of the Rockies got into a disagreement in the top of the third inning of Sunday’s game at Coors Field over sign-stealing.

LeMahieu reached on a fielder’s choice ground out, then advanced to second base on Charlie Blackmon‘s single. While Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were batting, Baez was concerned that LeMahieu was relaying the Cubs’ signs to his teammates. Baez decided to stand in front of LeMahieu to block any information he might have been giving to Arenado and Story. LeMahieu got irritated and the two jawed at each other for a bit. Umpires Vic Carapazza and Greg Gibson had to intervene to tell Baez to knock it off.

There has always been a back-and-forth with alleged sign-stealing. As long as teams aren’t using technology to steal signs, it’s fair game for players to relay information to their teammates about the opposing team’s signs. Last year, MLB determined the Red Sox went against the rules and used technology — an Apple watch in this case — to steal signs from the Yankees. Other teams in the past have been accused of using binoculars from the bullpen to steal signs. In this particular case with Baez and LeMahieu, there was no foul play going on, just Baez trying to make the Rockies cede what he perceived to be their slight competitive advantage.

The Cubs went on to beat the Rockies 9-7 on Sunday.