Blue Jays outfielder received 17.7 million votes to earn final all-star spot
Michael Saunders season of redemption is hitting new heights.
A knee injury suffered in spring training ahead of the 2015 season limited him to just nine games last season. After a full off-season of rehabilitation, the Toronto Blue Jays left-fielder is enjoying a career year.
Entering Friday’s action against the Detroit Tigers, Saunders is batting .298 with 16 home runs and 41 runs batted in through 79 games. Fans rewarded Saunders with a whopping 17.7 million votes in an online ballot to send him to next week’s All-Star Game in San Diego.
“Obviously very exciting. This is a proud moment for me and my family,” said the Victoria native. “I’m sure there are going to be a lot of people down in San Diego. I’m from the west coast of Canada so it’s not too far of a flight.
“Just to have my name mentioned with the guys who were in the final five vote as well as the guys in the All-Star Game, that itself was an accomplishment.”
The 29-year-old admitted that not being a part of the Blue Jays’ playoff push last summer was difficult.
“Watching the boys battle night in and night out, watching their successes the team had last year, it was really, really tough from Florida, to watch from afar,” he said. “Once my season was officially over, I got to come back, in August, and travel with the guys — try to be a part of it anyway I could.”
This season in Toronto nearly didn’t happen for Saunders. He was part of a rumoured trade with the Cincinnati Reds that eventually fell through.
Given that the Blue Jays weren’t able to truly benefit from what Saunders could add to the lineup last season, manager John Gibbons was happy to have him back for a second look.
“We didn’t know what to expect, I’d seen him a little bit when he was out in Seattle,” Gibbons said. “Even when we got him in the trade, we didn’t know how good he was going to be and then of course missing the whole year and almost traded in spring training. We’re lucky that fell through, whatever happened.
“He’s a much better hitter than I thought he was so you tip your hat to the guy.”
Saunders, who is headed to the All-Star Game for the first time in his career, beat out Detroit’s Ian Kinsler, Boston’s Dustin Pedroia, Houston’s George Springer and Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria in the fan poll.
Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson, designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and right-handed pitcher Marco Estrada were named to the AL team on Tuesday. Estrada was replaced by Cleveland’s Corey Kluber after landing on the 15-day disabled list with a back injury.
The Canadian Press via cbc.ca