Nelson Cruz is heading back to the All-Star Game for the fifth time in his career.
But not as a starter.
Cruz will serve as a reserve on the American League team for July 11 game in Miami after slipping to third behind Tampa Bay’s Corey Dickerson and Cleveland’s Edwin Encarnacion in the online public balloting.
Even so, Cruz focused on the positive.
"It’s always exciting," he said. "You have to thank the fans and the Mariners, the organization. Thanks everybody for the effort. It never gets old. You’re always excited to be part of that."
Cruz is nursing a sore right knee, which he injured Saturday on a slide at second base. He didn’t play in Sunday’s series finale against the Los Angeles Angels, but he expects to return to the lineup within a few days.
Barring a setback, Cruz should be fully available for the All-Star Game.
"When I rest it," he said, "I don’t feel it at all. If I move it, I feel it. The doctors say `day to day’ so, hopefully, I’ll be back soon."
Results from the All-Star balloting were announced Sunday afternoon on ESPN along, with one exception, the reserves and pitchers for the 32-player rosters in each league. Each club was guaranteed to have one player selected.
And one is all the Mariners have: Just Cruz.
"I felt for sure that Robby (Cano) should go," Cruz said. "He’s got great numbers. A few other players have good numbers, too. (Jean) Segura and (Ben) Gamel.
"You don’t wish anything bad to happen to anyone but, hopefully, there’s some way they can find a spot for them."
Injuries often force adjustments to the roster between the announcement and the game. Other than injury replacements, the last player on each roster will be chosen in a online vote from a field of five candidates in each league.
There were no Mariners among the AL’s Final Vote candidates.
Cruz led the balloting throughout much of the voting period, which concluded June 29, before Dickerson pulled ahead in the final days. The Mariners mounted late marketing blitz on social media, but it failed to reverse the momentum.
"I guess the fans want (Dickerson) more than me," Cruz said. "That’s the way I see it. He’s got great numbers, but I’m just happy to be part of it."
This is Cruz’s fifth All-Star selection in his 13-year career. He was voted as a starter in 2014 and 2015 after serving as a reserve in 2009 and 2013.
"He had a huge first half," manager Scott Servais said. "I know he cooled off a little bit with the home run ball the last couple to three weeks. We’ve seen when he’s not in there, there’s a much different look to our team."
Cruz, 37, is batting .287 with 14 homers and 59 RBIs in 78 games. While he hasn’t hit a homer since June 4, he still ranks second in the American League in RBIs.
Now he’s an All-Star again and looking forward to the experience.
With the game in Miami, it’s a short trip for Cruz’s family from the Dominican Republic. While he said he generally enjoys the busy schedule, he remains opposed to participating in the Home Run Derby.
"It’s tiring," he said. "I don’t think it’s fair for (Mariners) fans, and it’s not fair to my teammates for me to feel tired for five days. I did it once, and it’s a great event for the fans. But once you go once, you know what it is."
The best part?
"You get to know the players from the other teams," Cruz said. "Guys you’ve never had a chance to play with. You want to pick their brains and see what they think. How they go about their business. Stuff like that."
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners