Nelson Cruz sat on the Seattle Mariners’ dugout bench while bundled in a hoodie on a sunny Sunday in Anaheim, California.
The 38-year-old slugger is just the latest Mariner to be dealt with the bug that’s traveled throughout the team’s clubhouse. Cruz was originally among the starters in their Sunday lineup before he became a late scratch.
Entering Sunday, Cruz was 4-for-9 with two home runs against Angels rookie starting pitcher Jamie Barria.
“He got the virus that has gone through our clubhouse,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told reporters after their 4-3 loss to the Angels. “It’s hard when he’s not in the middle of your lineup.”
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If you’re keeping track, the Mariners were already without All-Star shortstop Jean Segura for three games last week because he was sick. Segura also sat out Sunday’s game.
Outfielder Cameron Maybin got it, too, and was pulled out of the lineup in the series finale against the Padres last week. Ace left-hander James Paxton stayed in Seattle for this Angels series and saw a Seattle doctor to treat a mild form of pneumonia.
But Paxton was expected to join the Mariners in Houston for their three-game series against the Astros. Servais said Paxton was feeling much better this weekend and could pitch before their road trip ends on Sunday, Sept. 23, in Arlington against the Texas Rangers.
Paxton was able to play some catch at Safeco Field on Saturday.
The Mariners’ starter for Wednesday’s game in Houston has yet to be announced, and if Paxton is healthy enough, he could pitch then.
Cruz hit his 36th home run of the season in the series opener on Thursday and he’s batting .265 with a .885 OPS (on-base plus slugging) this season, with his four-year Mariners contract set to expire after 13 more games.
Cruz is the only player in the big leagues to have averaged more than 40 homers and 100 RBI over the past five seasons.
Daniel Vogelbach took Cruz’s place in the lineup at designated hitter for his first start since being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma, the fifth time Vogelbach has been brought up to Seattle.
He launched the first pitch he saw in the fourth inning for a two-run home run to tie the game. The Angels pulled away on Kole Calhoun’s homer in the seventh inning.
Marco Gonzales threw at least 90 pitches in a run of 12 consecutive starts from May into July, and seven of those he topped 100 pitches.
He was extended on Sunday after tossing just 66 pitches against the Padres last week in his first start off of the disabled list, but this has been a bit of a trend, anyway, since August with Gonzales having already pitched a career-high innings for a season.
Since August, Gonzales has topped 90 pitches just once (97 in five innings of a 7-6 loss to the A’s) and on Sunday he was pulled after 84 pitches in five innings.
“Marco wasn’t quite as sharp as he was the last time out,” Servais said. “But you have to give him credit, he gutted it out and made it through five innings and gave us a chance.
“These starts he makes down the stretch, we’re not going to overextend him, but I think it’s important he continues to pitch and finishes the season strong.”
Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (8-4, 3.56 ERA) will start the series opener against the Houston Astros and left-hander Framber Valdez (3-1, 2.66 ERA) at 5:10 p.m. Monday at Minute Maid Park.
The game will broadcast on Root Sports and 770-AM radio.