Mariners Insider Blog

Cruz says he no longer balks at drawing regular duty as the Mariners’ DH

Nelson Cruz says he adopted a new mind-set last year about being a regular designated hitter: “Stop complaining about it if you don’t play outfield.”
Nelson Cruz says he adopted a new mind-set last year about being a regular designated hitter: “Stop complaining about it if you don’t play outfield.” AP

Acceptance is generally viewed as the final stage in any recovery process, and Nelson Cruz says he reached that threshold last season in terms of being a designated hitter.

"You guys know I like to play in the outfield," Cruz told a group of reporters. "But I understand the process, and I understand my job. I’ll be ready if they call me to play in the outfield. If not, I’ll be DHing.

"I think last year in spring training, I put my mind-set that I’m going to be a DH. `Stop complaining about it if you don’t play outfield.’ Just put it out of your mind. I think that helped. I’ll have the same mentality this year also."

Cruz, 36, is averaging 43.5 homers and 99 RBIs for the Mariners at the midway point of a four-year deal while posting a .294 average, .365 on-base percentage and a .561 slugging percentage.

But Cruz started just 48 games last season in the outfield, down from 80 in 2015. He started 148 as recently as 2012 at Texas.

"You’ll see him out there in spring training a little bit," manager Scott Servais said. "I don’t want to just exclusively use him as a DH. He does want to get out there."

The argument against: Cruz graded at minus-9 runs last season in right field in a Baseball Info System metric that projects every player’s value over 1,200 innings (approximately 135 games). He graded at minus-14 in 2015.

The Mariners also made two major offseason moves to bolster their outfield defense by acquiring Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger in trades. Dyson graded at plus-30 last season in the BIS metric, while Haniger (in limited action) was plus-4.

"I just know how valuable (Cruz) is to our lineup," Servais said. "To risk losing him with a leg injury or something like that, it’s not really worth it — but he will still get some opportunities in the outfield."

Not many though.

A TEST FOR CISHEK

Veteran reliever Steve Cishek is tentatively scheduled to test his recovery from hip surgery by playing catch Tuesday for the first time since arriving for spring training.

Plans call for Cishek to throw from 60 feet — roughly the distance from the mound to the plate.

Cishek, 30, underwent surgery Oct. 12 to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He was diagnosed with the injury in early August but missed just two weeks before returning to active duty. He had a 2.81 with 25 saves in a club-leading 62 games.

MIA: LEONYS MARTIN

Clubhouse humor hasn’t changed much over the years.

Center fielder Leonys Martin remains the only no-show in camp. He is on an excused absence while he takes care of some personal business in Miami.

But he’s not forgotten.

A "Missing" notice with Martin’s picture is posted throughout the clubhouse that includes such identifying characteristics as "misses signs repeatedly," and "has a high-pitched voice that sounds like a Cuban on helium."

Instructions at the bottom: "If found, please keep."

Martin is expected to arrive this week.

NOTHING BUT NET

One of the drills this spring aimed at improving the defense by pitchers consists of having them throw into a net at the base. Servais got the idea from watching quarterbacks throw into a net at football practice.

When pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. suggested the drill was too easy, Servais responded by announcing plans for a coaches vs. players competition to be held later in camp.

General manager Jerry Dipoto, a former reliever, is expected to take part.

The early favorite in the competition is Hisashi Iwakuma, who is already trying to dampen expectations.

"I’ve done something similar to that in Japan during workouts," he acknowledged. "It may look easy, but it’s actually not when you’re going through it. It’s a different workout. It’s easier, obviously, to throw at a guy.

"I think it’s a good drill for all of us, but it’s not easy."

Iwakuma pointed to Yovani Gallardo as a possible favorite.

Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners

  Comments