Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz wants you to ignore what you see. He insists his sore right knee "is getting better."
Cruz has battled a sore knee since July 1, when he jammed it on a slide at second base in Anaheim while trying to stretch a single into a double. He missed one game, then was limited to pinch-hitter in another before returning to the lineup.
He’s been limping ever since.
"He says he feels better when he runs (harder)," manager Scott Servais said. "When he’s going that — I don’t even call it half speed — it looks like it hurts really bad."
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Cruz insists otherwise.
"At least I’m running better," he said. "Or even walking better. When I get to third base, I feel it a little bit. Running around the bases is good until I get to third base."
The injury came just as Cruz appeared recovered from a small tear in his right calf muscle, which similarly limited his running.
None of it seems to affect his hitting.
Cruz hit a two-run homer in Saturday’s 4-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox and leads the majors with 72 RBIs while batting .292 with 18 homers.
Cruz’s ailing knee and an injury to right fielder Mitch Haniger makes it unlikely the Mariners will shorten their bench Tuesday if, as expected, they need to clear roster space to recall right-hander Sam Gaviglio from Triple-A Tacoma.
The Mariners’ current roster configuration has only four starting pitchers, which means they will need a fifth one, presumably Gaviglio, for Tuesday’s game at Houston.
Haniger is expected to miss a few days after suffering a bruised right index finger Saturday on a bunt attempt. He’s available to pinch-run, if necessary, for Cruz but appears otherwise limited in availability.
"It doesn’t feel too great," Haniger said, "but, hopefully, in a couple of days, it’ll be good. The ball ran in, got my finger and smashed it against the bat.
"The rest of the at-bat was fine, but I couldn’t get anything on a throw. That’s why I had to come out. I didn’t feel I could throw a guy out at home in a big situation. The last thing I want to do is to let a pitcher down."
Haniger’s injury should keep outfielder Boog Powell around for a little longer. Powell has just eight at-bats in 10 games since his July 2 recall from Tacoma. Six of those at-bats came July 2-3 when Cruz was out of the lineup.
Barring further injuries, the need to keep Powell positions reliever Emilio Pagan as the likely candidate to be sent to Tacoma to clear space for Gaviglio. Pagan has not pitched since his latest recall on July 7.
***The Mariners are going for a three-game sweep in their series finale against the Chicago White Sox at 11:10 a.m. Pacific time Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field. Prior to winning the first two games, they were 0-10-1 in their previous 11 series on Chicago’s South Side.
***Sunday’s pitching matchup is rookie right-hander Andrew Moore (1-1 with a 3.86 ERA) against Chicago lefty Derek Holland (5-9, 5.01). The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest.
***Moore is making his fourth major-league start and has never faced the White Sox. Holland is very familiar to the Mariners after spending the previous eight years at American League West-rival Texas.
***Holland is 13-6 with a 3.57 ERA in 26 career games, including 22 starts, against the Mariners. He limited them to one run and six hits in eight innings in an 8-1 victory on May 21 at Safeco Field.
***Robinson Cano is 16-for-49 with two homers in his career against Holland, while Kyle Seager is 13-for-46 with two homers. Cruz is 6-for-23 with three homers, while Danny Valencia is 4-for-15.
***The Mariners’ bullpen has allowed one run in its last 19 1/3 innings over six games.
***Right fielder Ben Gamel, a left-handed hitter, is batting .333 against lefties. He is batting .318 against right-handers but has a higher on-base percentage against righties: .387 vs. .353 against lefties.
***Jean Segura is still four plate appearances shy of qualification for the batting race. His .352 average would be lead the league if he had sufficient plate appearances, but adding an 0-for-4 drops him to .347 — behind Houston’s Jose Altuve (.348).
It was six years ago Sunday — July 16, 2011 — that the Mariners held a ceremony at Safeco Field to honor their 2001 club on the 10-year anniversary of its American League-record 116-victory season.
The Mariners then marked the occasion with a 5-1 loss to Texas, although that lone run, which came on an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki in the fifth inning, ended a club-record scoreless streak of 30 innings.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners