Nelson Cruz had his ankle looked at further on Sunday morning and the Mariners were awaiting the results of his MRI to determine his availability going forward.
Cruz hit his second two-run home run in as many games when he belted one in the sixth inning.
But strangeness ensued and soon after he was getting X-rays and in a walking boot. Mariners manager Scott Servais said that Cruz had slipped on the bottom step leaving the dugout into the batting cage and twisted his ankle, forcing him to leave the game.
“I couldn’t even walk,” Cruz said afterward.
So that gave Daniel Vogelbach his first start as the Mariners’ designated hitter on Sunday afternoon after Vogelbach led all MLB hitters during spring training, hitting .407 (22-for-54) with a 1.455 OPS, the third-best OPS during spring training in the past 10 seasons.
“It’s not the way I wanted go get him his first start of the season,” Servais said. “But get him in here today and hopefully he can keep it going. He’s got a ton of confidence out of spring training.”
Vogelbach went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts.
He got his first at-bat of the season, pinch-hitting for Mike Marjama in the bottom of the ninth inning against Indians closer Cody Allen, who has had at least 30 save each of the past three seasons. Vogelbach struck out.
“Tough assignment,” Servais said. “And he knew a couple of innings ahead of time that he was going to face Allen in the ninth. But hopefully he gets four at-bats today. We could really use a boost offensively without Nelson from that spot there. So hopefully he can give it to us.”
The good news for the Mariners is they have some time to figure out Cruz’s situation. They are off on Monday before heading to the San Francisco Giants for a two-game series, with National League rules, so no designated hitter. Servais said after Sunday’s game that they still weren’t sure of his availability.
“I joked to him yesterday, I was like, “You really didn’t want to play the outfield, did you?’” Servais said.
He should have known Cruz a little better than that.
“He got mad at me,” Servais laughed.
“Going into those spots, we’ll have to wait and see how he is coming out of (the MRI). If it’s going to be longer than 3-4 days then we’ll have to make a roster decision. But we’ll keep our fingers crossed.
Mike Zunino won’t travel with the Mariners to San Francisco in his recovery from a Grade 1 oblique strain, which sent him to the 10-day disabled list. Servais said he’ll likely participate in some workouts and simulated games with Triple-A Tacoma before the Rainiers begin their season on Thursday at Cheney Stadium.
Servais also said outfielder Ben Gamel, who is recovering from a more serious oblique strain, should start the season on Opening Night for the Rainiers as he begins a rehab assignment.
Servais was asked what the Mariners do once he’s healthy, considering their outfield of Ichiro Suzuki, Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia.
“Really early still,” Servais said.
Because it is. A lot of things could happen by the time Gamel is ready, including other injuries, which the Mariners can’t seem to avoid.
Servais said right-hander Erasmo Ramirez will likely throw in a simulated game with the Rainiers in his return from a strained lat.
DID YOU KNOW?
Nelson Cruz has now hit a home run in each of his first two games to start a season in four different times in his career (2010, Rangers; 2011, Rangers, 2014, Orioles, 2018, Mariners).
He is now the only player in MLB history to homer in each of his first two games of the season four different times. In 2014, he tied a major league record by homering in each of the Rangers’ first four games of the season.
The Mariners are off on Monday before taking on the Giants in a 1:35 p.m. game on Tuesday in San Francisco. Left-hander Marco Gonzales (1-1, 6.08 ERA in 2017) gets his first start of the season and will be opposed by LHP Ty Blach. The game will broadcast on Root Sports and air on 710-AM.
Gonzales came to the Mariners via trade from the Cardinals last season for outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677