Nelson Cruz made up ground on Kansas City’s Kendrys Morales in the latest balloting update to determine the American League’s starting designated hitter for the All-Star Game on July 14 in Cincinnati.
Even so, Cruz still trails by 286,109 votes in updated totals released Monday by Major League Baseball. A week ago, Cruz trailed Morales, a two-time former Mariner, by 548,977 votes.
Updated totals for National League balloting will be released Tuesday.
Cruz remains the only Seattle player cited in the weekly release, which reports the top 15 outfielders and the top five players at all other positions except pitcher. Pitchers are chosen by the players, managers and coaches.
Kansas City continues to dominate the voting, although Eric Hosmer surrendered the lead at first base this week to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera. Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout is the only other non-Royal in line to start.
Lefty James Paxton’s rehab status remains on hold because he continues to experience discomfort with his strained middle finger.
Paxton is scheduled to meet again this week with Dr. Edward Khalfayan, the club’s medical director, but the current plan is for Paxton to wait until he is pain-free before undergoing a full examination.
The injury occurred May 28 on a pitch in the fifth inning against Cleveland at Safeco Field. Paxton is 3-3 with a 3.70 ERA in 10 starts.
FOUR MORE SIGNED
The Mariners confirmed four more draft signings, including Louisiana State third baseman Conner Hale, whom they selected in the ninth round. The Mariners have signed their top 15 picks and 33 of 40 overall.
Hale will report to Single-A Everett. He signed for $50,000 — or $108,300 below his slot value as the 275th overall pick. It also means the Mariners finished $123,800 under their bonus pool for the first 10 rounds.
Veteran Rickie Weeks was released after clearing waivers. Weeks, 32, was designated for assignment June 13 after batting .167 with two homers and nine RBIs in 37 games.
The Mariners remain obligated for the remainder of Weeks’ $2 million salary, although that amount might be reduced by a pro-rated portion of the major league minimum if he signs elsewhere.
20 BEFORE THE BREAK
Cruz, entering Monday, needed one more homer to become the eighth Mariner to reach 20 before the All-Star break.
The last to do it was Raul Ibañez, who had 24 in 2013 before the break. Cruz had 28 last season at the break while playing for Baltimore.
It has been done 17 times overall in Mariners’ history, including six times by Ken Griffey Jr. Ibañez, Alex Rodriguez, Bret Boone, Jay Buhner and Edgar Martinez all did it twice. Russell Branyan did it once.
It was seven years ago Tuesday — June 23, 2008 — that Felix Hernandez hit a grand slam against Johan Santana in a 5-2 victory over the Mets at Shea Stadium in New York.
It was the first slam by an American League pitcher in interleague history and the first homer by a Mariners pitcher.
“My approach? Just swing. I closed my eyes,” Hernandez said after the game. “I was happy, and I was thinking that’s all I need — four runs.”
It turned out to be enough for the Mariners — but not Hernandez, who suffered a sprained ankle while covering the plate on a run-scoring wild pitch in the fifth inning.
Reliever Ryan Rowland-Smith got credit for the victory.
Seth Smith has 18 doubles, which put him on pace to finish the season with 42. His career high is 32 in 2011 with Colorado. … Austin Jackson extended his hitting streak against Kansas City to 14 games. … The Mariners are 15-8 against the Royals since the start of the 2012 season..
The Mariners and Royals continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Tuesday at Safeco Field. Left-hander Mike Montgomery (1-2, 2.73 ERA), once ranked as the Royals’ top prospect, will face Kansas City right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (5-4, 5.55).