OAKLAND, Calif. — Getting away from Safeco Field for a few days might be just what Nelson Cruz needs at this point after going 1-for-11 in the Mariners’ season-opening series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Cruz is trying not to press in an effort to make a good first impression after signing a $57 million deal for the next four years. But he admits that might be happening.
Example: In Wednesday’s 5-3 loss, Cruz looked bad in flailing away and striking out in the eighth inning against Angels reliever Joe Smith no outs and runners at second and third.
“He threw me pitches that were, probably, outside of the zone,” Cruz said. “And I was swinging. I should be more patient in that situation.”
Manager Lloyd McClendon sees a slugger trying too hard to slug.
“Mechanically, he’s got a couple of things going wrong,” McClendon said. “He’s probably expanding the zone a little bit. Listen, you want to do good. Nellie has a great track record. He’s going to be fine.
“When the hits start coming, they’ll come in bunches.”
Cruz said it’s a fine line between trying and trying too much.
“You always try,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what situation you’re in, you try to deliver. A new team, you want to impress. Hopefully, next game, I’ll have a chance in the same situation, and I’ll deliver.”
Right fielder Seth Smith reports improvement in his ailing groin muscle and is tentatively scheduled to return Saturday to the lineup when the Mariners face a right-hander in Sonny Gray.
“I need to get out there for batting practice and go through it,” Smith said prior to Friday’s game. “But as of right now, I think we’re good.”
Smith awoke Tuesday with soreness after going 3-for-3 in Monday’s 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels in the season opener at Safeco Field.
McClendon also used Friday’s game against a lefty, Drew Pomeranz, to get veteran Willie Bloomquist into the lineup. Bloomquist didn’t play in the first three games and replaced Brad Miller, a left-handed hitter, at shortstop.
“You don’t want them to sit too long,” McClendon said. “All of your work in spring training goes down the drain if you sit too long. You lose your timing and everything else.”
McClendon said backup catcher Jesus Sucre would likely start Saturday’s game in place of Mike Zunino.
Rickie Weeks also played the outfield for the first time in his professional career. Weeks started in left field after serving as the designated hitter in the two previous games. Cruz shifted back from right field to DH.
“Rickie worked all spring in left field,” McClendon said. “I told you he’s going to play some left.”
The Bay Area, like our I-5 corridor, can have some horrific traffic problems. When McClendon learned one (no names, here) reporter got trapped in the wrong lane and missed an exit, he asked:
“Were you going to wrong way? That’s like the guy who gets a call from his wife telling him to be careful because the news says there’s a person going the wrong way on the highway.
“The guy says, `One? It’s like 100 or 150 people going the wrong way.”
Right-hander Stephen Landazuri opened his sixth pro season in style Thursday night by permitting just one hit in six innings but settled for a no-decision in Double-A Jackson’s 2-0 victory at Jacksonville (Marlins).
The Generals won the game by scoring twice in the ninth inning on RBI single by Gabby Guerrero and an RBI double by Jabari Henry.
Landazuri, 23, struck out five and walked one while throwing 53 of 79 pitches for strikes. The Mariners selected Landazuri in the 22nd round of the 2010 draft, and he spent time this spring in big-league camp.
*Triple-A Tacoma opened its season Thursday with an 11-4 loss at El Paso (Padres), which delayed the Rainiers’ countdown to 4,000 all-time victories. The franchise is 3,983-3,960 in its 56 seasons. That includes 1,460-1,404 as a Mariners affiliate.
LOOKING BACK I
It was 31 years ago Saturday — April 11, 1984 — that first baseman Alvin Davis made his major-league debut. He marked the occasion by hitting a three-run homer in his second at-bat.
That homer came against future Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley, who was then a starter for the Boston Red Sox, and carried the Mariners to a 5-4 victory at the Kingdome.
Davis went on to become the American League’s Rookie of the Year by batting .284 with 27 homers and 116 RBIs. He played eight years for the Mariners and was inducted in 1997 as the first member of their Hall of Fame.
LOOKING BACK II
It was 14 years ago Saturday — April 11, 2001 — here at the Oakland Coliseum that rookie right fielder Ichiro Suzuki thwarted Terrence Long’s bid to go from first to third on a Ramon Hernandez single.
The play, which is often characterized as the throw, occurred in the eighth inning of the Mariners’ 3-0 victory. Long was at first after a leadoff single against Aaron Sele.
Long tried for third on Hernandez’s one-out single.
Suzuki, playing in just his eighth game, had entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the top of the inning for shortstop Charles Gipson.
The Mariners’ bullpen did not allow a run in its eight innings against the Angels in the season-opening series…The Mariners entered Friday with a streak of six straight victories in road openers. All six of those games were season openers…
The Mariners and Athletics continue their three-game series at 1:07 p.m. Saturday at the O.co Coliseum. The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN.
Lefty J.A. Happ will make his Mariners’ debut and face Oakland right-hander Sonny Gray, who pitched eight dominant innings Monday in an 8-0 victory over Texas. Gray allowed one hit, walked one and struck out three.
Happ was 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA last season for Toronto. The Mariners acquired him in a Dec. 4 trade for outfielder Michael Saunders.