Here’s a sobering thought: Where would the Seattle Mariners, struggling at 10-15, be without Nelson Cruz, who was picked Monday as the American League’s player of the month for April?
“Probably 10-15,” manager Lloyd McClendon deadpanned. “We didn’t have him last year, and we were 10-15.”
Which is not true. The Mariners were 11-14 last year through 25 games. And, anyway, McClendon was kidding about Cruz.
“He’s been outstanding,” he said, “and I don’t know where we’d be without him.”
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Cruz entered the week leading the majors with 13 home runs, 25 RBIs, a .788 slugging percentage, 78 total bases and a 1.175 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
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Cruz leads the majors with a 1.8 offensive WAR (wins above replacement), a 226 adjusted OPS (on-base plus slugging), 30 runs created, 15 adjusted batting runs and 1.5 adjusted batting wins.
“It’s always important (to get off to a good start with a new team),” Cruz said. “We have a good group of guys here. We’re all fighting for the same goal. This means I did something along the way to help my team.”
Cruz did much of that damage in April: 10 homers, 22 RBIs, a .322 average, a .724 slugging percentage and a 1.096 OPS.
Others who received votes: Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones, Detroit first baseman Miguel Cabrera, Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, Boston outfielder Hanley Ramirez and Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout.
Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez was picked as the National League player of the month.
Felix Hernandez was among those who received votes in balloting for AL pitcher of the month, but Houston right-hander Dallas Keuchel won the award. Hernandez is a four-time winner in his career.
Cruz is the sixth Mariner to win the monthly award but the first since outfielder Ichiro Suzuki in August 2004.
Designated hitter Edgar Martinez won the award five times. Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. won it twice, while third baseman Dan Meyer, shortstop Alex Rodriguez and Suzuki each won it once.
Cruz was the AL player of the week for April 13-19 and has won that award on four occasions in his 11-year career. This is the first selection as the player of the month.
So … was this the best month of his career?
“I guess,” Cruz said, “or I guess nobody did better than me. I hit 16 homers last year in May. That’s a lot of homers for a month.”
Cruz’s memory is also spotty. He hit 13 homers last May for Baltimore — along with 27 RBIs and a .339/.388/.748 slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). He got the homers wrong, but those numbers might be better than his April numbers with the Mariners.
Maybe Cruz has more in the tank: Prior to Monday, he had three homers in his first three May games while going 6 for 12.
Shortstop Chris Taylor and veteran lefty reliever Joe Beimel, as expected, joined the Mariners prior to Monday’s game against the Angels.
Both were promoted from Triple-A Tacoma after the Mariners cleared space following Sunday’s loss at Houston by optioning relievers Yoervis Medina and Tyler Olson to the Rainiers.
McClendon was guarded when asked how Taylor’s promotion will affect Brad Miller, who started 23 of the first 25 games at shortstop. Taylor was sin the starting lineup for Monday’s series opener against the Angels.
Regarding Taylor, McClendon said: “He’s a shortstop … He’ll play some shortstop.” That was it: “some” shortstop.
McClendon acknowledged it’s “a possibility” that Miller could spend time at other positions but offered no specifics.
“He’s a shortstop, too,” McClendon said. “He’s played our first 25 games at shortstop. He’s not the forgotten man. He’s certainly not the culprit in all of this, either.”
McClendon summed up Taylor’s promotion by saying: “Anytime you’ve played the way we’ve played to this point, I think there are changes that need to be made on several different fronts.
“We felt he would give us a shot in the arm.”
Taylor, 24, compiled a .313/.385/.475 slash in 21 games at Tacoma after recovering from a broken right wrist that derailed his chance to make the big league roster in spring training.
“There haven’t been any issues since probably a couple of games into my rehab assignment,” Taylor said. “That was like three weeks ago. I haven’t felt anything since then. I’m 100 percent.”
He batted .287 last season for the Mariners in 47 games.
Beimel, 38, rejoined the organization by signing a minor-league deal on April 2 after departing as a free agent following last season. He made three scoreless appearances, covering 32/3 innings, for the Rainiers.
“I feel like I’m right where I need to be,” he said. “It was kind of a weird offseason and a weird spring for me. It was nice to go to extended (spring training) and get that time there to make sure I’m where I need to be.”
A year ago, Beimel served as a lefty specialist in the Mariners’ relief corps and compiled a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings over 56 outings.
Technically, the Mariners recalled Taylor, who was already on the 40-man roster, and selected Beimel’s contract from Tacoma.
“That’s why, as soon as I got released (by Texas),” Beimel said, “I wanted to come back here, pretty much at all costs. I was comfortable here last year, and I had probably the best year I’ve had in the big leagues.
The club cleared space for Beimel on its 40-man roster by designating left-handed pitcher Mike Kickham for assignment. Kickham, 26, was 0-2 with a 7.29 ERA in five starts at Tacoma.
JACKSON TO DL, LOWE PROMOTED
It turns out that center fielder Austin Jackson was overly optimistic Sunday in assessing his likelihood of avoiding the disabled list after suffering a sprained right ankle while running out a grounder at Houston.
The Mariners placed Jackson on the 15-day disabled list prior to Monday’s game following a day-after evaluation.
“We just felt he was not going to be able to recuperate in two or three days,” McClendon said. “That’s just too much valuable time, and we decided to put him on the disabled list.”
The Mariners replaced Jackson by promoting right-hander Mark Lowe, another veteran reliever, from Tacoma. He allowed one run and seven hits in nine innings over seven outings for the Rainiers.
To add Lowe to the 40-man roster, the Mariners placed Tacoma outfielder Julio Morban on the restricted list. Morban, 23, left the Rainiers after Saturday’s game for personal reasons.
Online balloting to determine the Mariners’ version of Mount Rushmore saw support increase for outfielder Ichiro Suzuki in the latest update from Major League Baseball.
Ichiro pulled into the fourth place — the final spot in what MLB is calling the “Franchise Four” for each franchise. Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson dropped from third to out of the top four.
Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and designated hitter Edgar Martinez held their spots at first and second, while pitcher Felix Hernandez moved from fourth to third.
MLB only identifies the top four vote-getters in each club’s eight-player field. Johnson is now listed with outfielder Jay Buhner, first baseman Alvin Davis and pitcher Jamie Moyer.
Johnson remains Arizona’s overall leader.
Balloting continues through Friday at www.mlb.com/franchisefour. The winners for each club will be announced during pregame ceremonies July 14 at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati.
STRETCHING IT OUT
Houston entered the week with a seven-game lead in the American League West. The Mariners were eight back after suffering a four-game weekend sweep to the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The last time a club led any division by at least seven games on May 3 was 2001, when the Mariners held a nine-game lead in the AL West en route to a 116-victory season.
Single-A Clinton right-hander Daniel Missaki was picked as the Midwest League pitcher of the week after contributing seven innings to a combined no-hitter in a 2-0 victory at Cedar Rapids.
Missaki, 19, retired the first 20 batters before issuing a two-out walk in the seventh inning. He struck out the next hitter before the LumberKings went to the bullpen. Kody Kerski and Troy Scott completed the no-hitter.
The Mariners signed Missaki as a nondrafted free agent shortly after he pitched for Brazil in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He is 1-1 with a 3.68 ERA in five starts at Clinton.
It was 24 years ago Tuesday — May 5, 1991 — that Greg Briley ended the longest game in Kingdome history by hitting a walk-off homer against Rich Monteleone in a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees in 16 innings.
Briley’s homer was a one-out drive that followed an Omar Vizquel double and came after Kevin Maas put the Yankees on top earlier in the inning with a homer against Bill Krueger.
It was Briley’s second homer of the season, but he failed to hit another one that year over his final 320 at-bats.
The Mariners and Angels continue their three-game series at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday when lefty James Paxton (0-2, 5.74 ERA) faces Los Angeles right-hander Garrett Richards (2-1, 3.00) at Angel Stadium