SEATTLE — Center fielder Leonys Martin returned Friday from the disabled list and went immediately into the lineup in the series opener against Texas.
"I want to be smart," Martin said, "but I’m going to make the play. I feel really good. I feel like I’m almost 100 percent."
The Mariners cleared space for Martin on their 25-man roster by optioning infielder Luis Sardinas to Triple-A Tacoma. Sardinas is batting .190 in 25 games and was 8-for-37 since his May 25 recall from Tacoma.
Martin’s return means the Mariners were able to start two of their key up-the-middle players — Martin and shortstop Ketel Marte — for the first time since May 21. Marte returned Monday after missing time because of a sprained left thumb.
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"It’s been a long couple of weeks," manager Scott Servais said. "You try to mix and match. The guys (who filled in) did a commendable job, but it’s not the same as having the regular guys out there."
Martin suffered a strained left hamstring while stealing second base on May 25 against Oakland. He was batting .262 in 44 games with nine homers and 20 RBIs at the time of the injury. He also had a plus-five defensive rating in runs saved.
"It’s been the longest 15 days of my life," he said, "but that’s part of the game. It’s a long season. There’s a long way to go. There are many games left when I can help my team win ballgames."
Robinson Cano has hit 246 of his 257 career homers while playing second base, which matches Hall of Famer Joe Gordon for the second-highest total by a player at that position.
Gordon had 253 homers overall in an 11-year career from 1938-50 with the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians.
Cano still has some work to do to catch the overall leader among second basemen. Jeff Kent hit 351 of his 377 homers as a second baseman in a 17-year career from 1992-2008.
Double-A Jackson outfielder Tyler O’Neill was No. 5 in the latest Prospect Hot Sheet by Baseball America, which seeks to identify which of the game’s top prospects are currently performing at high levels.
"O’Neill, a Canadian outfielder shining brightly in a barren system," the magazine reported, "put a stamp on a huge week on Wednesday, when he drove in eight runs and scored his team a win with a walk-off grand slam.
"He had three other long balls this week, and ranks among the top three in the Southern League in homers, batting average and slugging."
Hi-A Bakersfield continued its turnaround Thursday by stretching its winning streak to nine games in a 2-0 victory over Stockton (Athletics).
Left-hander Eddie Campbell pitched a two-hitter over eight innings before Jake Zokan closed out the shutout with a scoreless ninth. The Blaze scored its two runs in the third inning on RBI singles by Austin Wilson and Jay Baum.
Bakersfield improved to 31-28.
***Jackson entered play Friday with a magic number of one for clinching the first-half pennant in the Southern League North Division.
It was two years ago Saturday — June 11, 2014 — that Robinson Cano hit his first homer at Safeco Field as a member of the Mariners. It came in the ninth inning against his former club, the New York Yankees, in a 4-2 loss.
The homer, which came against Masahiro Tanaka, occurred in Cano’s 27th home game at Safeco. Since then, through Thursday, he has hit 32 homers at Safeco in 198 games.
The Mariners entered the weekend as the only club with three players with 40 or more RBIs. Robinson Cano had 50, Nelson Cruz had 43 and Kyle Seager had 40…the Mariners lead the majors with 29 homers against left-handed pitchers…the Mariners entered Friday with a chance to become only the third club in history to have a player hit more than one homer in four straight games. Cruz, Chris Iannetta and Cano hit two homers in each of the three previous games. The Cubs had four straight games in 1998, and the Indians did it in 2000.
The Mariners and Rangers continue their three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Left-hander James Paxton (0-2 with a 3.72 ERA) will face Texas right-hander Colby Lewis (5-0 and 3.20).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners