By Christian Caple The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Robinson Cano was once again absent from the Seattle Mariners’ lineup on Sunday afternoon, though manager Lloyd McClendon said the star second baseman is “doing fine.”
But that doesn’t mean there’s a timetable for his return. McClendon doesn’t know for sure when Cano’s left-hand contusion will heal enough for him to play again, but the manager indicated Cano’s return might not be that far off.
“I think it’s a combination of pain tolerance,” McClendon said. “He’s a tough guy, but we’ve got to manage 162 games, not a three-game series or four days. As a former player, I know how painful bone bruises can be and how nagging they can be, and the right thing to do is to get it quieted down so he can proceed and get ready to play again.
“We’re almost there. We’ll see how he is tomorrow. But he won’t be in there (Sunday).”
Cano, whose .327 batting average ranks fourth in the American League, suffered the contusion of his left hand — his top hand when he holds the bat — during a game last week against the Angels when the knob of the bat jammed into his hand as he swung at a pitch.
This is the first time Cano has missed four consecutive starts since 2006, when a hamstring injury landed him on the disabled list and caused him to miss 35 games.
McClendon said Cano has been able to work on “everything else” besides hitting since he suffered the injury — “taking ground balls, getting his cardio in” — but that he’s not been able to work on any hitting drills while he waits for his hand to recover.
With Cano out, the Mariners again turned to veteran utility man Willie Bloomquist to fill in at second base. Bloomquist came through with a pair of RBI singles on Saturday, helping the shorthanded Mariners to a 3-2 victory over Detroit.
Bloomquist batted ninth on Sunday and was again productive, driving in a run with a double in the fifth inning after singling in his first at-bat.
Meanwhile, infielder Nick Franklin, who is 0-for-14 with nine strikeouts in his last four games, did not play on Sunday. Franklin is batting .128 in 52 plate appearances with the Mariners this season.
“(Bloomquist) had a good game (Saturday) night and Franklin didn’t,” McClendon said. “Just trying to find options for guys that can help us win games.
“He’s a veteran guy. He knows what he’s doing. He has not had a lot of opportunities but when you’re a utility player, that’s what happens,” McClendon said of Bloomquist before the game. “When you do get those opportunities, you’ve got to take advantage of them. He’s done that.”
Seager better at Safeco
Throughout his four-year career, third baseman Kyle Seager has hit considerably better on the road than he has at Safeco Field. This year, though, that script has been flipped.
In 210 career road games, Seager is batting .281 with 32 home runs and 114 RBI. In the same number of home games prior to Sunday, Seager was hitting .234 with 21 homers and 87 RBI.
But his numbers — particularly his power numbers — have been far more impressive this season at Safeco than away from it. Each of Seager’s team-leading eight homers this season have come at Safeco. And those eight homers match his Safeco season total from 2013.
Through the Mariners’ 26 home games prior to Sunday, Seager’s OPS was .989. His best full-season OPS at Safeco came last season, when he posted a .690, and his career OPS at home is .685.
McClendon said he would like to see Seager raise his average – he’s batting .258 this season (.297 at home, .229 on the road) — to the .285 range.
Which means that for the first time in his career, Seager would do well to replicate his Safeco numbers on the road, and not the other way around. He had another two hits on Sunday.
“I think he has a better plan. And the plan is not to hit home runs,” McClendon said. “The plan is to hit doubles and hit the ball the other way. I think because he’s committed to that, when they make mistakes he can take advantage of them. He’s becoming a better hitter.
“My goal is to not see him hit .260. I think he’s a .285, .290 guy who can drive in 85 to 100 runs, and that’s what we’re trying to get him to be. He’s buying into it. He’s getting better.”
Groin tightness for Jones
Center fielder James Jones left Sunday’s game in the eighth inning due to tightness in his left groin. The Mariners termed his departure precautionary.
“Just a little tightness,” McClendon said afterward. “I’m sure he’s going to be fine.”
Jones was 2-for-4 on Sunday with an RBI. He singled in the bottom of the seventh, then was replaced by Cole Gillespie when the Mariners took the field to start the eighth.
The Mariners travel to New York for one game on Monday, a makeup of their scheduled April 30 game that was rained out. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (7-1, 2.57 ERA) is scheduled to pitch for the Mariners against Yankees right-hander David Phelps (1-2, 3.38 ERA).
Seattle then travels to Atlanta to begin a two-game series against the Braves on Tuesday. The Mariners have not announced a starting pitcher for that game, though McClendon said a decision will likely be announced Monday.