Saunders homers twice as Blue Jays beat Phillies 9-6
Toronto Blue Jays Michael Saunders watches his three run homer soar over the fence during first inning spring training action against the Philadelphia Phillies in Dunedin, FLa., on March 5, 2016. (Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)
Jeff Odom, The Associated Press
Published Saturday, March 5, 2016 4:56PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, March 5, 2016 5:33PM EST
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Michael Saunders homered twice and drove in five runs, leading the Toronto Blue Jays to a 9-6 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday.
Toronto slugger Troy Tulowitzki led off the first inning with a drive to left against Aaron Nola.
Three batters later, after AL MVP Josh Donaldson walked and Chris Colabello reached on an infield single, Saunders drove a full-count pitch to the bullpen netting in right-centre.
Saunders went deep again in the third against Elvis Araujo, hitting a two-run shot off the right-field foul pole.
"I feel like this is my first big league camp all over again," Saunders said. "Certainly, a lot of nerves, butterflies, but more so, excitement. I'm feeling like a kid out there again. ... I'm still incredibly thankful that I'm here right now after last year."
The 29-year-old Saunders, who was sidelined for most of last season because of a left knee injury, finished 3 for 3, adding a single in the fifth.
"Coming in here and not having it linger in the back of my mind, and playing free and easy is something that I wasn't able to do last year," he said. "I knew that was going to be the biggest test for me."
Toronto starter Drew Hutchison allowed one run and one hit in two innings.
Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz hit an RBI single in the third off Steve Delabar.
Phillies: Nola, a candidate to start the season opener April 1 against the Orioles, settled down after his erratic start, retiring the side in order in the second.
"I wasn't really commanding the baseball," he said. "My pitches were pretty much over the plate, and they made me pay for them. It was just something that I was getting behind the count."
Blue Jays: Manager John Gibbons said it is still too early to determine whether Hutchison will start the season in the rotation or the bullpen. The 25-year-old right-hander was Toronto's opening-day starter last season, but laboured with a 5.57 ERA in 30 games, 28 starts.
"I can't answer that completely today, but he's gonna be a good starter, he's done that in the big leagues for us," Gibbons said.
Phillies: OF Aaron Altherr is day to day with a left wrist injury. He got hurt diving for a ball in right field during the first inning of Friday's 12-11 win over Atlanta.
"He's still a little sore, he's in a splint," manager Pete Mackanin said. "One of our doctors has looked at him or is looking at him, and we're just going to wait until (Sunday) to make a determination what the next step is."
BAUTISTA GETTING CLOSE
Blue Jays OF Jose Bautista likely will make his spring training debut on Wednesday against the Rays in Port Charlotte or Thursday against the Yankees in Tampa, Gibbons said.
The six-time All-Star has been held out of Toronto's first five exhibition games, as planned, to get more time to work out.
Toronto reliever Brett Cecil is eager to put a disappointing conclusion to last season behind him.
The lefty sustained a significant tear in his left calf muscle when he got tangled up with Mike Napoli during a rundown play in the eighth inning of a Game 2 loss to the Rangers in last season's AL Divisional Series. Cecil had to be helped off the field and missed the remainder of the post-season.
Cecil, a 2013 All-Star who is eligible to become a free agent after the World Series, said he spent most of the off-season nursing it back to full strength.
"First day of camp, just running between the fields over at the minor league complex, it kind of tightened up and got sore," he said. "So that's when we kind of backed up a little bit and looked at my schedule, and just kind of tailored it to what I'm gonna need to be doing."
Cecil is slated to make his first appearance Monday against the Braves. Though he is in competition with Drew Storen and Roberto Osuna for the closer role, Cecil said he has found his comfort zone as a setup man.
"Would I take another shot at closing if they asked me? Of course -- no doubt in my mind. But I'm comfortable where I'm at now," Cecil said.
Phillies: Charlie Morton will make his first start on Sunday against the Yankees in Tampa. The right-hander was acquired from Pittsburgh in February for a minor league prospect.
Blue Jays: Marcus Stroman gets his second start against the Astros in Kissimmee. The righty, expected to fill David Price's spot at the top of the rotation this season, yielded two runs and struck out one in two innings against the Phillies on Tuesday.