CHICAGO -- Michael Saunders was out of the lineup again Sunday for the Mariners as the center fielder recovers from a minor strain of his right groin muscle after colliding with teammate Eric Thames in the ninth inning of Friday's 9-8 loss to the White Sox.
Casper Wells was penciled into the lineup in center for the series finale, with Saunders hopeful of returning by Monday when the club opens a four-game set in Minnesota.
Saunders is a big man at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, but got the bad end of the impact with the rock-solid Thames, who is listed at 6-foot, 205 pounds. Saunders, 25, said he'd never had that kind of collision in the outfield.
"Never to that magnitude, especially with such a big guy, to be honest," Saunders said Sunday. "I think I might have got the worst of that one. It was like hitting a truck. He's built like a linebacker. Unfortunately sometimes it's one of those things that happen. It wasn't the first time and certainly won't be the last time that happens in baseball. It's too bad, but fortunately we're both all right."
Saunders and Thames were both tracking a line drive to the right-center-field gap by Paul Konerko in a tie game with the winning run on second base. Thames had the ball in his glove momentarily before Saunders crashed into him at the warning track.
"People don't realize until you get out there what it's like to play in front of 40,000 and how loud it gets," he said. "Especially being where it was in the game at that point. Fans think it might be a game-winning home run, they were going nuts, it was a do-or-die play and we were both going 100 percent for it.
"We were both calling for it, but couldn't hear each other. We had to make the play or we lose."
Saunders said his groin apparently strained with the way his body torqued in the collision.
"It must have been the way I got hit and flipped around," he said. "But it's getting better and I'm trying to be ready for Minnesota."
Gutierrez close to returning to Mariners
CHICAGO -- Franklin Gutierrez, on the disabled list for eight weeks with a concussion, is close to rejoining the Mariners, manager Eric Wedge said Sunday.
Gutierrez played his seventh rehab game with Triple-A Tacoma on Saturday and went 1-for-3 with a walk and run scored. He's hit .333 with seven RBIs and two home runs with the Rainiers and hasn't had any further headaches or setbacks.
"I think he's close to heading our way," Wedge said. "He felt good again last night. We're going to talk further about it today, but I think he's getting close."
Gutierrez has played just 13 games this season after missing the first several months of the season with a partially torn pectoral muscle. He was playing well when he finally got healthy, batting .267 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 45 at-bats while playing his usual outstanding defense.
But the 2010 Gold Glove winner was hit in the head with a pickoff throw to first base by Boston's Franklin Morales on June 28 and has been sidelined since.
With Michael Saunders battling a sore groin muscle following an outfield collision Friday, Gutierrez could slide right back into the center-field role. Saunders is hoping to return by Monday, but he can also play left or right field.
Seager among AL's best in the clutch
CHICAGO -- Kyle Seager has been Mr. Clutch all season for the Mariners, with his 73 RBIs leading the club by a wide margin. And with his four RBIs in Saturday's 5-4 loss to the White Sox, Seager moved into a tie for the most RBIs on the road by any player in the Majors this season.
His 51 road RBIs tied him with Josh Hamilton and Mark Teixeira going into Sunday's play, with Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey one behind. That's pretty exclusive company.
"He's swinging the bat well," said Mariners manager Eric Wedge. "He's a good hitter and he's really finding himself at this level, like a lot of our kids are. He hits his way through situations and understands what he needs to do to give himself the greatest chance to succeed. He's ahead of some of our other young players in that regard."
Seager's two home runs on Saturday pushed him into the team lead in that category as well with 15.
The 24-year-old third baseman continues to lead the Majors in two-out RBIs with 41, three ahead of the Tigers' Cabrera.
It's all pretty good stuff for a player in his first full season in the Majors. Seager came to camp this spring not even sure he'd make the 25-man roster and opened the year as the backup third baseman, but moved immediately into the lineup after Mike Carp was injured on Opening Day and Chone Figgins shifted to left field.
"I wouldn't say he's a surprise, but I didn't expect it to come this fast," Wedge said. "He's a young hitter that, like all our young players, is going through a lot of firsts and he's handling it very well. It's obvious that this young man, if he keeps on this path, is going to be a very good big league hitter."
First baseman Mike Carp, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin muscle, is expected to begin a rehab stint with Triple-A Tacoma on Monday. Manager Eric Wedge said he'd start out playing designated hitter and gradually work his way back to first base duties.
Erasmo Ramirez allowed just one unearned run on four hits in 7 1/3 innings when Triple-A Tacoma beat Las Vegas, 4-1, on Saturday. Ramirez, who spent part of the season with the Mariners, improved to 5-3 with a 3.98 ERA in 14 starts for the Rainiers.
Going into Sunday's game, the Mariners had hit a home run in eight straight games -- with 14 total in that span. Their 75 home runs on the road was the fifth-highest total in the Majors.