James Paxton will rejoin the Mariners’ rotation Saturday

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On the disabled list since April with a shoulder injury, Mariners rookie James Paxton is finished with a minor-league rehab assignment and ready to rejoin the rotation.

Paxton is scheduled to start Saturday against the Orioles in what will be his first MLB game action since April 8.

Coming into the season the Mariners thought they’d be able to add promising prospects Paxton and Taijuan Walker to a rotation headlined by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, but after two-thirds of the year Paxton and Walker have combined to make just five starts between them.

Paxton has begun his career by going 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA in six starts dating back to last season’s debut and the 25-year-old left-hander convinced the Mariners he was ready to return by posting a 4.35 ERA and 14/6 K/BB ratio in three rehab starts.

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Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.