By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
In terms of marketing, this was less than ideal. The Mariners distributed 20,000 Robinson Cano bobblehead dolls prior to Saturday’s game against Detroit with Cano absent for a third straight game from the starting lineup.
Cano is battling a bruised left hand that occurred last week against the Angels when his bat jammed into the webbed area between the thumb and forefinger.
All indications suggest the injury is minor, but the Mariners want to keep it that way — although manager Lloyd McClendon, in his pregame news briefing, didn’t rule out the possibility Cano could pinch-hit on Saturday if needed.
“He’s improving,” McClendon said, “but we’re not taking any chances. We’ll see how he is. I need to talk to the trainers, but the treatment is certainly working.”
Cano agreed his hand is “a little better” since treatment began.
Veteran Willie Bloomquist replaced Cano at second base in Saturday’s game, while Mike Zunino filled Cano’s No. 3 slot in the lineup.
Cano is batting .327 with two homers and 31 RBI in his first season for the Mariners after signing a 10-year deal as a free agent in December for $240 million after nine seasons with the New York Yankees.
He hasn’t missed three straight games since his second big-league season, when a strained left hamstring in late June 2006 forced him to the disabled list for 35 games.
Cano played in at least 159 games for the Yankees in each season from 2007-13 and had started the Mariners’ first 52 games this season prior to his injury.
On to El Paso
Right-hander Taijuan Walker is slotted to make his next rehab start Monday for Class AAA Tacoma at El Paso (Padres).
Walker gave up four runs and five hits over three innings last Wednesday in the Rainiers’ 3-1 loss to Salt Lake. It was the first outing in his second rehab assignment for a sore shoulder.
Afterward, Walker admitted he was rusty.
“It was that third inning,” he said. “I was leaving everything up. I wasn’t really locating my fastball, and I wasn’t able to throw anything else.”
McClendon previously indicated Walker would need to make at least one, and probably more than one, additional rehab start — and to pitch well — before he is considered for duty in the big-league rotation.
Walker initially reported shoulder soreness in February but recovered sufficiently to make two rehab starts in early April before the problem resurfaced.
Back to New York
Brooklyn-native James Jones has been to Yankee Stadium, but he’s never seen a game there — much less played in a game there. That figures to change Monday when the Mariners return to the Bronx for a makeup game.
“I’ve been there for a workout,” Jones said, “but I’ve never seen a game there. I’m looking forward to it.”
Jones, 25, was recalled May 5 from Class AAA Tacoma — four days after the Mariners bookended an April 30 rainout with two victories over the Yankees.
He had played in every game since his recall, including starts in 19 straight games, before sitting Saturday against Tigers lefty Drew Smyly.
“We’re just giving him a break,” McClendon said. “He’s been grinding it pretty tough, and I think Endy (Chavez) is probably more equipped to handle a guy like this.”
Maybe so, but not much has overwhelmed Jones, who carried a .287 average into Saturday with a .340 on-base percentage plus a club-leading five steals in six chances.
Now, he gets to return home, as a big-leaguer, for friends and family Monday at Yankee Stadium.
“I’m limiting myself to 10 tickets in New York,” Jones said. “But my mom will be there. For sure.”
Kyle Seager leads the Mariners with eight homers, and here’s an oddity: All eight have been hit at Safeco Field. Eight also matches the most homers he’s ever hit in a single season at Safeco … The Mariners reassigned veteran outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady to Class AAA Tacoma. He had been in extended spring training after signing a minor-league deal … The Mariners continue to list their starter for Tuesday’s game in Atlanta as TBA. Current plans point to a recall of right-hander Erasmo Ramirez from Tacoma.
It was 11 years ago Sunday — June 1, 2003 — that the Mariners set a franchise record by opening a game with seven consecutive hits.
The barrage came against Kenny Rogers in a six-run first inning that produced a 9-5 victory at Minnesota.
Randy Winn, Carlos Guillen, Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez and Mike Cameron started the game with singles, which produced three runs. Greg Colbrunn’s triple made it 5-0 before Jeff Cirillo had an RBI single.
The Mariners conclude their 11-game homestand at 1:10 p.m. Sunday at Safeco Field with the last of three weekend games against the Detroit Tigers.
Left-hander Roenis Elias (3-4 with a 4.02 ERA) will start against Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer (6-1 and 3.00). Scherzer is the American League’s reigning Cy Young Award winner.
Root Sports will carry the game.
The Mariners then travel to New York for a make-up game Monday at Yankee Stadium. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (7-1 and 2.57) will face New York right-hander David Phelps (1-2 and 3.38).
Then it’s onto Atlanta for games Tuesday and Wednesday. After an open date Thursday, the Mariners play a four-game wraparound series (Friday-to-Monday) at Tampa Bay.