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Notes: Saunders optioned to Salt Lake

Notes: Saunders optioned to Salt Lake

ANAHEIM -- The Angels optioned left-handed pitcher Joe Saunders to Triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday to make room for Bartolo Colon, who returned from the disabled list to face the Seattle Mariners.

Saunders, fresh off six shutout innings and a win against Seattle on Friday, pitched well with the club in 2007, going 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA. He had mixed feelings on the demotion.

"You never want to get sent down, but this is a business and Bartolo is one of the best, a proven guy," said Saunders. "It's just not my time right now."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia understood Saunders' feelings on the matter and said it was a tough decision to send him down.

"Our organizational depth is so strong, but it wouldn't be good for either of us to move him to the bullpen," said Scioscia. "It's tougher when he is proven, when we know that he is ready. He just needs to go down there and get stretched out, get his pitches in and he'll be back."

Angels pitcher Jered Weaver, who learned of the demotion from reporters, also sympathized with Saunders. "He just needs to work hard and get back up here. When there is a Cy Young winner coming back, it's hard, but something has to happen."

It has been a roller coaster of a weekend for Saunders, who pitched on Friday night with a heavy heart, dedicating his win to the victims of the Virginia Tech tragedy.

Saunders attended the school from 2000-02, when he was drafted by the Angels in the first round.

"It's tough going from being on such a high last night to now being sent down," said Saunders. "But I know what I have to do."

Figgins progressing: Angels sparkplug Chone Figgins continues to move forward in his recovery from the two fingers he fractured in Spring Training that have prevented him from playing so far this season.

Figgins says that while there is currently no timetable for his return, things are looking up.

"I'm not holding anything back on my swing at this point, and the throwing is more of an issue," said Figgins. "The problem is getting that snap on the ball when I release the throw, but it is going better than I thought it would."

Figgins was on the field at Angel Stadium more than four hours before Saturday night's game against Seattle, playing catch and doing sprints. He also fielded grounders and made throws to first base from both shortstop and third base during batting practice.

Angels bats waking up? Are all the struggles the Angels had hitting and driving in runs during their 1-7 road trip now behind them with Friday night's offensive barrage?

The Angels broke out of their slump in a big way on Friday night, tying a season high with 14 hits and tagging Mariners right-hander Miguel Batista for 10 hits and six earned runs in six innings.

The team was 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position on Friday. Over its previous 10 games, the team hit .152 (14-for-92) in that same area.

Having Vladimir Guerrero back in the lineup can energize an offense, and that is what happened on Friday. Guerrero, who seems to be back at full strength after missing two games earlier this week, went 3-for-5 on Friday night with a solo home run. He was back in the three hole for Saturday night's contest as well.

Home, sweet home: Ervin Santana's struggles on the road throughout his career have been well chronicled, but he will take the mound at Angel Stadium for the first time in more than two weeks on Sunday.

In 27 road starts, he is 9-13 with a 6.78 ERA. But in his 32 career starts in Anaheim, Santana is 20-5 with a 3.07 ERA, including a win against Texas in this season's opening series.

As a reference, Johan Santana of the Minnesota Twins won the 2006 American League Cy Young Award with a 19-6 record and a 2.77 ERA, not a far cry from what the Angels' Santana has done in his career at home.

Up next: Santana will make his second home start of the year on Sunday afternoon in the 12:35 PT finale of the three-game set against Seattle. The Mariners will counter with former Angels right-hander Jeff Weaver (0-2, 15.75 ERA).

Richie Brand is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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