Surprised Saunders is back? So is he

Jan 19, 2012, 5:59 AM | Updated: 4:12 pm

Surprise, Joe Saunders is back.

In a shocking twist to the D-backs offseason escapades,
the club inked the veteran left-hander to a one-year, $6
million contract on Monday — a deal both sides thought
would never be reached.

After the Diamondbacks acquired Trevor Cahill from the
Oakland Athletics this winter, it appeared the team had
all but cut ties with Saunders.

“I thought for sure I was done,” Saunders told Arizona
Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo on Wednesday in reference to
his tenure with the D-backs. “For them to come back and
reach out to me means a lot to me.”

The free agent market never quite developed to his liking
and with Saunders’ longstanding desire to return to the
defending NL-West division champion Diamondbacks’ rotation
this season, it’s safe to say he was over the moon when
the team’s brass came calling.

“I think everybody kind of knew that I wanted to come back
and play in Arizona,” Saunders stated. “We had a great
thing going last year and I wanted to continue it as long
as we could. So, it was pretty much a no-brainer to me.”

Last year, Saunders went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA in 212
innings pitched. While other clubs did show interest in
obtaining the southpaw’s services, none of those teams
could offer Saunders the camaraderie, friendships and most
importantly — a legitimate chance to contend for a
championship — the way the D-backs could.

“If you can say it, I think we’re in a much better
position than we even were last year,” Saunders said.
“We’ve brought everyone back and we got some more
additions on the offensive side. We bolstered the bullpen,
too. So, I can’t wait, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

One of those new additions is the aforementioned Cahill.
The realization that the two will now be teammates instead
of adversaries pleases Saunders — and instantly deepens
an already strong D-backs rotation.

“I thought Arizona did a tremendous job getting him,”
Saunders offered. “He’s a young kid, he’s locked up for a
while, I think, and the sky’s the limit for him. Cahill is
one of those rare righties — almost like a Brandon Webb-
type righty — where he’s got a real heavy sinker, a good
breaking ball, he throws strikes — he’s definitely going
to be a great addition to our rotation.”

Cahill is just one of the pieces the D-backs added this
offseason to a team that won 94 games and captured the NL
West crown in 2011. Saunders acknowledges his
disappointment in how the season ended — in an NLDS loss
to Milwaukee — but believes the sting of that defeat will
only benefit his team in the long-term.

“We learned a lot about ourselves and we learned what we
could do and how far we could go,” Saunders said. “So it
kind of gave us a little taste in our mouth — almost a
little bitter taste in our mouth because we got so close
to moving on and we fell short there. We just want another
crack at it.”

With a rotation that’s arguably among the National
League’s best, they are already off and running.

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Surprised Saunders is back? So is he