Born on June 16, 1981 in Falls Church, Virginia, Joe Saunders (Joseph Francis Saunders) played for the Anaheim Angels for his entire 2 year career. Saunders broke into the bigs on August 16, 2005 with the Anaheim Angels, and put up a 4.71 ERA in 70.2 innings pitched in 2006, his rookie year.
Saunders played college baseball at Virginia Tech, where he compiled a 27-7 career record. His 27 wins tied him for third place in most career wins in school history.
Saunders was drafted in the first round (12th overall) by the Anaheim Angels in 2002. After being promoted to single-A Cedar Rapids in 2002, he missed the entire 2003 season due to an injury in his left shoulder. He returned to the game with single-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2004 and went 9-7 with a 3.41 ERA. He was promoted to double-A Arkansas in 2004, and recorded a 7-4 record with two complete games in 2005.
Saunders was promoted to triple-A Salt Lake and was 10-7 with three complete games, including two shutouts, earning honors as the Angels Organization's Pitcher of the Year. He made his major league debut on August 16 against the Toronto Blue Jays, receiving a no decision after closer Francisco Rodriguez blew the save in a 4-3 loss for the Angels.
Saunders was sent back down to Salt Lake, but recalled on September 6 to start against the Seattle Mariners on September 14. Once again, he received a no-decision in a 10-9 defeat, and was optioned to Salt Lake. Though he was not placed on the playoff roster, he was resigned by the Angels to a one-year contract.
After Cy Young winner Bartolo Colon was placed on the disabled list during the 2006 season, Saunders was recalled a final time and replaced Colon on the rotation. Before Saunders received his first loss, he compiled a 4-0 record. He ended the season with a 7-3 record and a 4.71 ERA.
Saunders began the 2007 season on the rotation while Colon remained on the disabled list. He was optioned to triple-A Salt Lake Bees on April 21, 2007 to make room for Colon's return. Saunders made two spot starts for when a pitcher on the Angel's normal rotation was injured: for Colon (triceps tendinitis) on June 2, 2007 against the Baltimore Orioles and for Jered Weaver (bruised shoulder) on June 22, 2007 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was called up for a third time on July 21, 2007 to replace Ervin Santana in the starting rotation when Santana was optioned to triple-A Salt Lake Bees.
- Selected by Anaheim Angels in the 1st round (12th pick overall) of the free-agent draft (June 4, 2002 - signed June 10, 2002).
- As the only active major league player at the time from Virginia Tech, Saunders received special dispensation to wear a Virginia Tech cap during the April 20, 2007 game against the Seattle Mariners to honor the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre. Saunders also wore the initials "VT" on his cleats and drew the Virginia Tech logo on the back of the pitcher's mound before the start of the game. His soon to be wife Shanel Garofalo also went to Virginia Tech. He picked up the win after pitching six shutout innings.