Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Nelson Cruz on his streaky nature: ‘It’s part of me’

It’s three weeks and counting since the “Boomstick” produced a home run. Heck, it had been 16 at-bats since he had a hit of any kind.

So what’s wrong?

“I don’t know,” Seattle power-hitter Nelson Cruz said prior to Thursday’s game against San Francisco. “I don’t have any reasons. I think it’s just something that happens during the season. It’s part of me.”

Cruz missed two games last week in Cleveland because of back spasms, but he insists that isn’t the reason for his power decline and overall slump.

“Not really,” he said. “Everything is good there.”

Cruz had 11 homers in an 18-game span from April 13 through May 2. Now, he’s gone 70 at-bats over the past 19 games with squadoosh.

“Power hitters can be streaky,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “Their homers come in bunches. When he’s not hitting them, you think he’s in a drought.”

A year ago, Cruz had perhaps his finest all-around season while playing for Baltimore. His 4.6 WAR (wins above replacement) rating was a career best, and he led the majors with 40 homers.

It wasn’t a smooth ride, though.

Cruz’s monthly OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) last year was .956 in April; 1.135 in May; .647 in June; .671 in July; .725 in August and .988 in September.

He’s following the same pattern this year: A 1.096 OPS in April when he was the American League player of the month. Nearly as good in May at 1.014. But just .492 in June heading into Thursday.

“It’s the same approach,” Cruz said. “The results are just not the same for some reason. But one pitch or one swing, you see something that clicks, and it comes back to where it’s supposed to be.”

AILING INFIELDERS

Dustin Ackley played second base for the first time since Sept. 21, 2013, when two ailing infielders forced the Mariners to scramble their lineup after batting practice.

Second baseman Robinson Cano was scratched because of stiffness in his lower back, while third baseman Kyle Seager is battling what appears to be food poisoning.

Veteran utilityman Willie Bloomquist replaced Seager at third, which left Ackley as the only alternative at second base. The Mariners opened the game with two other reserves: outfielder James Jones and catcher Jesus Sucre.

Ackley played primarily second base for 2 1/2 seasons before shifting to the outfield midway through the 2013 season.

PAXTON UPDATE

Ailing left-hander James Paxton is hoping an examination Thursday night by Dr. Edward Khalfayan can produce new information on the slow-healing middle finger.

“We’ll see what he has to say,” Paxton said, “but I think it’s just a matter of waiting for that tenderness to get out. Then I can start a throwing program.”

Paxton suffered a strained middle finger in the fifth inning of his May 28 start against Cleveland. This week was the original target for the start of his throwing program.

“I feel like it’s getting real close,” he said. “I just have to wait for that last bit of tenderness to get out of there. Then I’ll get out there and throw.”

ROLLINS’ RETURN

Left-handed reliever David Rollins, suspended this spring for failing a drug test, is poised to start his rehab assignment at Triple-A Tacoma.

Rollins, 25, is a Rule 5 pick from Houston who received an 80-game suspension March 27 after testing positive for Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that is often used by bodybuilders to build muscle mass.

The rules allow a 16-day rehab period for suspended players to prepare them to return to active duty. Rollins can remain with the Rainiers through July 3.

On July 4, Mariners must make a decision on Rollins in accordance with Rule 5 regulations, i.e., he must be placed on the 25-man roster, designated for assignment, traded or placed on waivers.

Rule 5 picks must remain on a major-league roster or the major-league disabled list for the entire next season. They must be offered back to their former club for $25,000 before they can be sent to the minors.

Rollins was 3-4 with 3.81 ERA in 27 games last season at Double-A Corpus Christi.

10 FOR THE KING

Felix Hernandez became the first American League pitcher to reach 10 victories this season Wednesday when he worked eight innings in a 2-0 victory over the Giants.

It was also the earliest date in his 11-year career that he reached double digits in a season. His previous best was last year, when he improved to 10-2 on June 29 with a 3-0 victory over Cleveland.

Hernandez has now recorded at least 10 victories in seven consecutive seasons, which matches Jamie Moyer’s franchise record.

UNCORK FOR A CAUSE

First baseman/winemaker Logan Morrison will host cancer-awareness program — Uncork for a Cause — from 7-9 p.m. Sunday in Woodinville to raise funding for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“Specifically for lung cancer,” Morrison said. “My dad passed away from lung cancer in 2010. He was a non-smoker. So it can affect anybody. A lot of people don’t know that.

“We want to raise awareness and raise some money. And have some fun.”

The event will be held at the J. Bookwalter Tasting Studio and also serve as the release party for Morrison’s own limited-edition Columbia Valley Cabernet.

Tickets are $75 for general admission and $175 for VIP tickets. Admission includes food, wine and beer, and a free bottle Morrison’s wine, a $38 value.More information: www.UncorkforaCause.com.

LOOKING BACK

It was three years ago Friday — June 19, 2012 — that Ichiro Suzuki went 4 for 5 in a 12-9 victory over the Diamondbacks in 10 innings in Arizona.

Ichiro’s first hit of the game, a single in the first inning, was the 2,500 of his big-league career and came in his 1,817th game.

Only three players reached that milestone faster: Al Simmons (1,784 games), Ty Cobb (1,790 games) and George Sisler (1,808 games). All three are in the Hall of Fame.

Ichiro, now 41, is currently playing for Miami and has 2,885 hits over his 15-year career.

SHORT HOPS

Hernandez recorded his third start of the season Wednesday of eight or more scoreless innings. No other pitcher has more than two. Hernandez has 29 such starts in his career. No other pitcher has more than 24 in that span. … The Mariners’ 34 shutouts and 3.62 ERA in in all-time interleague play are the best marks by any team. … Center fielder Austin Jackson, entering Thursday, was batting .302 in 21 games since returning from the disabled list.

ON TAP

The Mariners open a three-game weekend series against first-place Houston at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Roenis Elias (3-4, 3.67 ERA) will face Astros right-hander Lance McCullers (3-1, 2.00).

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