ARLINGTON, Texas — Mariners right fielder Nelson Cruz can understand why his former teammate, Josh Hamilton, viewed Texas as the best place to try to revitalize a star-crossed career.
“He had five years (in Texas) so, hopefully, that works out,” Cruz said Monday before the Mariners opened a three-game series against the Rangers at Globe Life Park.
“I know he has good memories from here. So, hopefully, he can come back and be the player that he was.”
The Rangers held a news conference Monday afternoon to announce Hamilton’s return in a trade with the Los Angeles Angels with cash for a player to be named later or cash.
Hamilton signed a five-year deal with the Angels for $125 million as a free agent after the 2012 season. The Angels agreed to pay most of the $80.2 million that remains on his contract.
“I’m back home,” he said. “I’m going to give everything I’ve got.”
Hamilton has yet to play this season while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery and a self-reported relapse into alcohol and cocaine use.
The Rangers said Hamilton will report Tuesday to their year-round complex in Surprise, Ariz., and likely be activated in mid-May. If so, the Mariners won’t see him until an Aug. 7-9 series at Safeco Field.
Cruz has good memories, too, from his eight seasons with the Rangers from 2006 through 2013 before he departed last season to Baltimore as a free agent.
“Sure,” he agreed. “Anytime you go to the World Series twice, with a great group of guys, good memories.”
This is Cruz’s second trip back to Texas since his departure. He played three games here last June with the Orioles and recalls a warm response from the Texas crowd…
“Until I hit the homer,” he said, smiling. “I’m a rival now.”
The crowd reception was mixed Monday when Cruz came to the plate in the first inning. He then delivered an RBI that opened the scoring in a 3-1 victory over the Rangers.
Violent thunderstorms in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex forced charter flights carrying the Mariners and Texas Rangers to divert Sunday night to other cities.
The Mariners’ flight was diverted to San Antonio, where it remained for two hours, before eventually making a bumpy 40-minute flight to DFW Airport. The traveling party reached its hotel around 5 a.m.
“To go to San Antonio (because) `this was the safe way to go…,’” left fielder Dustin Ackley said. “It was still pretty rough. I guess there wasn’t a safe way, period, to go.”
First baseman Logan Morrison said he chose to be philosophical.
“I was just laughing at everyone else who was getting sweaty,” he said. “The way I looked at it, if I had control of the situation, we’d definitely crash. Right? So I’m glad I don’t have control of the situation.
“And there’s nothing I can do about it. Might as well just relax.”
The flight back to DFW was also harrowing.
“It felt like we landed on one wheel,” utilityman Willie Bloomquist said, “and the wings were (see-sawing).”
The Rangers’ charter flight, following a weekend series in Anaheim, was diverted to Austin.
Storms delayed the start of Monday’s game by 55 minutes. Oddly, the only rain delay last season at Globe Life Park was Sept. 6 when the Mariners were in town. That delay lasted 3 hours, 13 minutes.
This is no surprise, is it? The Mariners, entering Monday, ranked last among all American League clubs with a .203 batting average with runners in scoring position.
“It happens,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “We’ve all seen it. You pitch, and you don’t hit. You hit, you don’t pitch. You pitch and hit, then you don’t play defense.
“Every team goes through that funk, and we’ve gone through ours. This is a good baseball team. We’ll be just fine.”
They were better in Monday’s 3-1 victory over the Rangers, going 2-for-7 with RISP. Cruz and Seth Smith delivered RBI singles.
The Mariners batted .262 last season with RISP, which ranked fifth among the 15 AL clubs.
Third baseman Kyle Seager has appeared in 145 consecutive games — an ironman streak that ranks fourth in the majors.
But Seager only ranked third among AL third basemen.
Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria has a 262-game streak, and Texas’ Adrian Beltre has a 159-game run. Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman has the second-longest streak at 187 games
FROM THE TOP
Two firsts for Justin Ruggiano: He made his first start of the season in center field and served for the first time as the Mariners’ leadoff hitter.
Austin Jackson had started in center for all but one of the previous 18 games. Dustin Ackley started in center on April 13 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
Ruggiano is the club’s fifth different leadoff hitter. Jackson has done it 11 times. Others: Rickie Weeks (four), Ackley (two) and Seth Smith (one).
“Jack needs a day (off),” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Quite honestly, I think Morrison needs a day. I don’t think it will hurt to give Ackley a blow as well. There’s a combination of things going on here. “
The result was Morrison and Ackley, both left-handed hitters, weren’t in the starting lineup even though Texas started right-hander Yovani Gallardo. Bloomquist started at first, while Weeks played left.
“Obviously, we’ll give these guys a mental break with the rough start,” McClendon explained. “And it gives our right-handers (Ruggiano, Weeks and Bloomquist) three days in a row so we can get them going as well.
“It’s not fair to ask them to come off the bench and pinch-hit and get big hits when they haven’t played much. This sharpens them up as well.”
Texas plans to start left-handers Ross Detwiler and Wandy Rodriguez in the final two games of the series.
A SWITCH IN THE BOOTH
The Mariners are also pulling a switch in the broadcast booth for the first two legs of the current three-city trip.
Aaron Goldsmith will switch from radio to join analyst Mike Blowers on Root telecasts for the games at Texas and Houston. Dave Sims will team with Rick Rizzs on 710 ESPN and the rest of the Mariners Radio Network.
Goldsmith and Sims will return next week for their regular duties when the Mariners conclude their 10-game trip with three games against the Angels in Anaheim.
It was 14 years ago Tuesday — April 28, 2001 — that the Mariners became the first team in Major League history to win 20 games in April by improving to 20-4 with an 8-5 victory at Chicago.
Kazuhiro Sasaki also set a major-league record when he recorded his 13th save in April by pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
Taijuan Walker’s ERA is down to 6.86 (from 17.18) after limiting opponents to one earned run over 12 1/3 innings in his last two starts…Reliever Carson Smith got the final out in the eighth inning and is now just one-third of an inning away from tying the club record for scoreless innings to start a career. Mark Lowe set the record with 17 2/3 innings in 2006…All but one of the Mariners first 19 games have been decided by three runs or fewer.
The Mariners and Rangers continue their three-game series at 5:05 p.m. Pacific time Tuesday when left-hander J.A. Happ (1-1 and 2.61) opposes Texas lefty Ross Detwiler (0-2, 10.95).
The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710 ESPN.