Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Cruz returns to lineup after quick recovery

Nelson Cruz returned Tuesday to the Mariners’ lineup after suffering some sort of pelvic dislocation in Monday’s loss to Kansas City.

The Mariners remain a little fuzzy with the details.

Even Cruz noted, “I don’t really know. I thought it was my hamstring at first, but they figured out later that it was my pelvis that was out of place.

“They laid me down and just popped it in. I don’t feel it at all now. I feel good. Thank God, it was something that could be fixed right away.”

While Cruz returned to the lineup, he did so as the designated hitter and is unlikely to play in the outfield for at least a few days.

“We’ll probably keep him off his feet for a while,” Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon said, “and just let him DH.”

Cruz has been a rare potent weapon in a Mariners’ attack that ranks last among American League clubs in runs per games. His 19 homers, 44 RBIs and .313 average are club-leading totals and rank among the league leaders.

Cruz said he first experienced discomfort in the third inning Monday when he turned to play a double off the right-field wall by Mike Moustakas. The problem escalated on Jarrod Dyson’s single in the seventh.

“I broke (after the ball) quick,” Cruz said, “and I felt it pretty bad.”

Cruz left the game for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning.

“I thought it was something bad, but they put it back in place and, today, it feels normal.”

new coach’s PRIORITY

McClendon identified the struggling Mike Zunino as a priority for new hitting coach Edgar Martinez.

“I think that’s something (Martinez) wants to do,” McClendon said. “In the end, my hope is he does have a major influence on Zunino and does make him a project.

“We can get him back to being something close to what he was last year.”

That’s not exactly a high bar.

Zunino batted .199 last season with a .254 on-base percentage, although he did hit 22 homers and drive in 60 runs. He entered Tuesday at .155 and .226, and his seven homers and 15 RBIs put him on pace to finish with 16 and 34.

PAXTON UPDATE

Club officials are hopeful that left-hander James Paxton can begin throwing this week — perhaps as soon as Wednesday. He suffered a strained middle finger in a May 28 start against Houston.

Since Paxton hasn’t thrown for nearly a month, his routine would likely start from scratch: a few days of playing catch, then advancing to long toss, bullpen workouts, a simulated game or two and two or three rehab starts.

Even a best-case scenario suggests a return before August is optimistic.

POSITIVE SIGNS

Is Robinson Cano finally starting to come out of his extended slump?

Cano entered Tuesday’s game with eight hits in his last 24 at-bats, which had bumped up his average from .235 to .244 — which is still 66 points below his career average entering the season.

He also had driven in a run in four of his previous five games and had collected seven extra-base hits in his last 13 games.

Baby steps.

DOMINICAN TARGET

The Mariners rate as the favorites, according to Baseball America, to sign Carlos Vargas, a 16-year-old shortstop from the Dominican Republic, when the international signing period opens on July 2.

Vargas, a right-handed hitter, is 6 feet 3 and 180 pounds. His size suggests he might eventually switch positions, perhaps to third base or an outfield corner.

The magazine reported that Vargas has “broad shoulders and his value is in his right-handed bat, even if it is an unusual, funky swing … but he has performed well in games and hits the ball hard.”

Baseball America predicted that Vargas’ bonus could approach $2 million, which would be far more than any player the Mariners selected in the recent draft. Right-hander Nick Neidert, the club’s top pick, received $1.2 million.

GRAMMAR COUNTS

Take a bow, Mariners fans. At least those of you who leave comments on the club’s website. A new study shows that you’re among the more grammatically proficient fans in the big leagues.

The folks at Grammarly ( www.grammarly.com) teamed up with the Wall Street Journal to examine the 30 club websites by analyzing the top 150 comments for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors.

The sample size for each team averaged more than 10,000 words.

Mariners fans ranked fourth with an average of 5.2 errors per 100 words. Cleveland fans ranked first at 3.6 errors, followed by San Diego at 4.4 and the Chicago White Sox at 4.8.

The bottom four: New York Mets at 13.9, Philadelphia at 13.5, Houston at 12.7 and Kansas City at 12.4.

HARD CONTACT

Which Mariner hits the ball hard with the greatest frequency?

According to ESPN Stats Info, it’s third baseman Kyle Seager at 18.5 percent of the time, which ranks 37th in the majors. The computation is based on video reviews.

Four other Mariners make the top 61: Outfielder Seth Smith, designated hitter Mark Trumbo and second baseman Robinson Cano all round off at 17.2 percent and rank 56th, 57th and 58th.

Outfielder Nelson Cruz ranks 61st at 17.0.

The major-league leader is Washington outfielder Bryce Harper at 25.1 percent. The American League leader is Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier, who ranks fifth overall, at 22.8 percent.

MINOR DETAILS

Outfielder Alex Jackson, the organization’s top prospect, is off to a strong start at Short-A Everett after struggling earlier this season at Low-A Clinton and getting sent back to extended spring training in Arizona.

Jackson, 19, is batting .316 (6 for 19) in his first five games with the AquaSox. He batted .157 in 28 games at Clinton.

The Mariners selected Jackson with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft, and he entered the season ranked No. 1 on the TNT Top 10 list of the organization’s prospects.

MINOR STARS

The Mariners had six minor-league players competing Tuesday in all-star games.

•  Double-A Southern League: Left-handed pitcher James Gillheeney and outfielders Jabari Blash and Dario Pizzano of Jackson.



•  High-A California League (vs. Carolina League): Left-handed pitcher Paul Fry of Bakersfield.



•  Low-A Midwest League: Right-hander Lucas Schiraldi and outfielder Estarlyn Morales of Clinton.



ANOTHER SIGNING

Add center fielder Ricky Eusebio, a 16th-round pick from Miami, to the Mariners’ list of draft signings. He will report to Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League.

The Mariners have signed 34 of the 40 picks, including their top 19 selections.

LOOKING BACK

It was 18 years ago Wednesday — June 24, 1997 — that Randy Johnson set an American League record for strikeouts by a left-hander, recording 19 against Oakland at the Kingdome.

Even so, the Mariners lost 4-1. The previous record was 18 by New York’s Ron Guidry on June 17, 1978, in a 4-0 victory over the California Angels at Yankee Stadium.

Johnson matched his own record less than two months later by striking out 19 on Aug. 8, 1997, in a 5-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox at the Kingdome.

The 19 strikeouts remain an AL record for a left-hander. Johnson also holds the major league record for strikeouts by a left-hander, getting 20 on May 8, 2001, while pitching for Arizona in a 4-3 victory over the visiting Cincinnati Reds.

SHORT HOPS

The Mariners, through Monday, are tied with Oakland for the most quality starts among American League clubs with 42. … Austin Jackson had one of the Mariners’ two hits in Monday’s 4-1 loss and entered Tuesday with a 14-game hitting streak against the Royals. … Fernando Rodney worked a scoreless inning Monday and has not allowed a hit in his last five appearances, which span 42/3 innings.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Royals conclude their three-game series in a matchup of left-handers at 7:10 p.m. Wednesday at Safeco Field. Seattle’s Roenis Elias (4-4, 3.56) will oppose Kansas City’s Danny Duffy (2-3, 5.87).

The Mariners have an open date Thursday before starting a nine-game trip down the coast: three games against the Angels in Anaheim, two at San Diego and four at Oakland.

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