By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
NEW YORK — Second baseman Robinson Cano returned to the starting lineup Monday after a four-game absence.
Cano suffered a bruised left hand on his final at-bat in last Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. The bat jammed into the webbed area between his thumb and forefinger.
“Then the next day, in batting practice, I still felt it,” he said. “I thought, ‘You know what? I don’t want to go out there, check my swing and make it worse.’”
Cano hadn’t missed four games in an entire season since 2006.
“It’s been terrible,” he said. “I hate to sit and watch a game. But things happen in life, and I’ve got to be happy it wasn’t even worse. I’m feeling much better. I’m going to try to play today.
“Hopefully, it won’t bother me again, and I can play.”
Cano dismissed the suggestion that he placed extra emphasis in returning to the lineup for a game at Yankee Stadium, which he called home for nine years before signing with the Mariners as a free agent in the offseason.
“Here or anywhere, it’s the same thing,” he said. “We want to win, and you don’t help the team win by sitting on the bench. It doesn’t matter if it’s you or anybody else, you always want to play.”
Cano also said he isn’t really tracking his former club.
“To honest with you, no,” he said. “We’re on the other side (of the country). We don’t pay attention to what they’re doing. You might see the score, but I don’t really pay attention to what they’re doing or not doing.”
Cano surges in balloting
The latest update on All-Star balloting raised a smile from Cano.
“I’ve got to thank all of those fans,” he said. “It’s something that really means a lot. It’s something I really appreciate.”
Cano surged to a sizable lead over Detroit’s Ian Kinsler in result released Monday by Major League Baseball. He now has a lead of 76,232 votes after trailing Kinsler last week by 5,951.
No other Mariners are listed among the leaders; MLB releases the top five vote-getters for catcher, designated hitter and each of the four infield positions. It releases the top 15 outfielders.
In-stadium balloting runs through June 26, but online ballots are accepted at www.mlb.com and www.mariners.com through 8:59 p.m. Pacific time on July 3. The teams will be revealed the weekend of July 5-6.
The All-Star Game is July 15 at Target Field in Minneapolis.
Cano is seeking to be voted in as the starter for a fifth consecutive year. The only AL second basemen to gain five straight fan-elected starts are two Hall of Famers: Rod Carew (1970-75) and Roberto Alomar (1996-2000).
The Mariners pushed pitcher Taijuan Walker’s next rehab start back one day — from Monday to Tuesday. Walker will pitch for Class AAA Tacoma at El Paso. Not much mystery there: It puts Walker on a timetable to step into the big-league rotation, on normal rest, for his next start … if circumstances allow.
There are two key factors:
n How Walker performs in the second start of his current rehab assignment, including whether he suffers any recurrence of the shoulder soreness that surfaced in February and returned in mid-April.
n How Erasmo Ramirez performs today when recalled to the majors from Tacoma to start at Atlanta. He’s 1-4 with a 6.00 earned-run average in six starts this season.
Manager Lloyd McClendon confirmed Monday that “our plans are to start Erasmo tomorrow (today)” against the Braves in Atlanta.
Ramirez is filling the spot created by the decision to option Brandon Maurer to Tacoma after a poor performance last Thursday dropped him to 1-4 with a 7.52 ERA in seven starts.
The Mariners must make a space-clearing roster move prior to Tuesday night’s game in Atlanta to accommodate Ramirez’s return.
The move almost certainly will involve a non-pitcher. Those most at risk are infielder Nick Franklin and outfielders Stefen Romero and Cole Gillespie. Franklin and Romero have options remaining.
It’s likely another move is on the horizon to make room for veteran outfielder/first baseman Xavier Nady, who is at Tacoma after agreeing last week to a minor-league deal.
Club officials said the plan was for Nady to sharpen his timing for a handful of games at Tacoma before coming to the big leagues.
A decision is also coming within a week on outfielder/first baseman Logan Morrison, who began a rehab assignment May 23 at Tacoma in his recovery from a strained right hamstring. Such assignments for non-pitchers are limited to 20 days. The Mariners could choose to activate Morrison and option him to Tacoma because he has options remaining.
“Some games are OK,” McClendon said. “Other games are not too good. He needs at-bats.”
Morrison is batting .324 (11-for-34) with nine runs scored, one homer and two RBIs in nine games for the Rainiers.
The Mariners have two high school players atop their draft board, reports analyst John Manuel of Baseball America, but he expects both to be gone prior to their selection at No. 6 overall on Thursday. In his latest mock draft, Manuel predicts the Mariners will select Hartford left-handed pitcher Sean Newcomb while citing North Carolina shortstop Trea Turner as a possible alternative.
The two prep players Manuel believes the Mariners prefer are catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson of San Diego, and shortstop Nick Gordon of Orlando, Florida.
It was 37 years ago Tuesday — June 3, 1977 — that Ruppert Jones hit a homer at the Kingdome that ended a hitless streak by Cleveland’s Dennis Eckersley at 22? innings. The major-league record was 23 innings by Cy Young.
Jones’ homer was the only hit the Mariners got, though, in a 7-1 loss to the Indians.
The Mariners head south after their one-day stay in New York for two games against the Braves in Atlanta. Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez (1-4 with a 6.00 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Tacoma to start the game.
The Braves plan to start right-hander Gavin Floyd (0-2 and 2.37). Root Sports will carry the game, which begins at 4:10 p.m. Pacific time. The series at Turner Field concludes at 9:10 a.m. Pacific time on Wednesday.