The club had initially said the Victoria native may not be back until the all-star break in mid-July. But after the surgery, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos said Saunders could be back by mid-April.
"If he recovers well, it could be a little sooner," he said.
It could also be a little longer, depending on rehab. But he will be back in play earlier than originally thought.
Saunders suffered the injury Wednesday when he jammed his foot on a sprinkler head indentation while shagging balls at the team's spring training complex. The surgery was done in Florida by Steven Mirabello, the Jays' consulting orthopedic surgeon.
Anthopoulos said Saunders had been leaning beforehand towards having the meniscus removed rather than repaired. But once they went inside the knee, there wasn't a repair option with the surgeon having to remove 60 per cent of it.
"Down the road, years from now, maybe it's something he's going to have to be on top of," Anthopoulos said of the knee.
The 28-year-old Saunders was expected to leave the surgery on his own two feet and could be back running in two weeks. He could start a rehab assignment at the tail end of spring training.
"Once we get him into games, then it will just be a matter of timing and how many at-bats he's going to need," Anthopoulos said.
The shorter recovery time has eased the Jays' urgency to address the issue of outfield depth and should allow them to feel more comfortable about filling the void internally.
"There's a big difference obviously from the all-star break and some time in April ...That certainly would change our outlook a little bit," Anthopoulos said.
The freak accident has prompted the team to look at its training fields, Anthopoulos said.
"I can certainly tell you we've had some discussions and tweaked some things."
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