Mariners notebook: Ailing hand keeps Cruz out of lineup

ARLINGTON, Texas — Nelson Cruz suffered a hand injury Sunday on a check swing in Chicago, manager Scott Servais revealed Tuesday in explaining Cruz’s absence from the lineup for a club looking to halt a recent skid.

The good news is Cruz’s injured left hand isn’t believed to be serious.

“He’s on some medication,” Servais said. “It’s nothing structural. There’s no bone damage. It’s some kind of nerve issue, where he loses (feeling) in his fingers. His grip strength isn’t great.

“He got on some medication (Monday). We’ll give him the day off today, and I hope we can get him back in there (Wednesday). Then we have a day off following that. Believe me, it hurts not to put him on there.”

Cruz was unavailable for comment prior to Tuesday’s game against Texas and its ace left-hander, Cole Hamels, but he sought to minimize the ailment after Monday’s 6-3 loss in the series opener.

“Everyone is battling something right now,” said Cruz, who appeared to wince in pain on several swings. “It’s late in the season. You just try to deal with whatever you have and play the game.”

Servais said Cruz argued to play Tuesday when the Mariners sought to pull out of a 1-6 slide that left them three games behind Baltimore for the American League’s final wild-card berth.

“I think it’s the right course to take,” Servais said. “He came in and fought me on it. It’s hard not to have him in there in the four hole. But (Monday) night, where he was at, he really struggled to hang onto the bat.”

Franklin Gutierrez replaced Cruz on Tuesday as the DH and cleanup hitter.

Cruz leads the Mariners with 32 homers while batting .280 with 79 RBIs in 127 games. He also leads the club with an .886 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).

Servais said the Mariners ran multiple tests on Cruz and are convinced a short rest will enable him to return to regular duty.

“We’ve had it X-rayed and MRI’d and Cat-Scanned,” Servais said. “There’s no bone (issue). The bone isn’t broken or anything like that,. It’s a nerve thing that’s pinching, and it affects his grip strength.

“It is what it is. What are you going to do? A lot of teams go through adversity. They deal with injuries. There’s never an ideal time for it to happen. Certainly, now couldn’t be a worse time.”

Reinforcements coming

Look for the Mariners to add two or three players prior to Friday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Angels at Safeco Field. Clubs can expand their rosters from 25 players to as many as 40 on Sept. 1.

The Mariners are expected to add a third catcher, probably by recalling Jesus Sucre from Triple-A Tacoma. They are also expected to activate right-handed reliever Evan Scribner from the 60-day disabled list.

Scribner, 31, has made four rehab appearances after suffering a torn back muscle in spring training. The Mariners acquired him from Oakland in a Dec. 8, 2015 trade for minor-league pitcher Trey Cochran-Gill.

The Mariners cleared a spot for Scribner on their 40-man roster Tuesday by assigning right-hander Jarrett Grube to Tacoma after he cleared waiver. It was a paper move for Grube, who was already pitching for the Rainiers.

The Mariners figure to further bolster their bullpen when Drew Storen (shoulder inflammation) and Tom Wilhelmsen (back spasms) return from the disabled list. Storen can return as soon as Sept. 4; Wilhelmsen on Sept. 9.

Another reliever, Tony Zych, is eligible to be recalled Sept. 4 from Tacoma. Outfielder Nori Aoki and infielder Mike Freeman can be recalled on Sept. 5.

Scribner compiled a 4.54 ERA last season in a career-high 54 games at Oakland. He is 5-2 with a 4.21 ERA in 121 career games over parts of five seasons.

Sucre, 28, missed nearly three months while recovering from a broken leg suffered Jan. 17 while playing winter ball in Venezuela. He played three big-league games in July, going 1-for-10, but has spent much of the season at Tacoma.

Minor stars

Three Double-A Jackson players are among the 15 selections for the All-Southern League team: second baseman Tim Lopes, outfielder Tyler O’Neill and left-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough.

Through Monday:

***Lopes, 22, was batting .290 with a .363 on-base percentage in 124 games. He also had one homer and 49 RBIs. The Mariners selected Lopes in the sixth round of the 2012 draft.

***O’Neill, 21, was batting .297 with 24 homers and 99 RBIs in 124 games. He was a third-round pick in 2013.

***Yarbrough, 24, was 12-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 24 starts. He was a fourth-round pick in 2014.

Minor details

O’Neill set a Jackson franchise record Monday by reaching 99 RBIs in a 5-3 loss to Biloxi (Brewers) in the first game of a doubleheader.

The previous record was 97 RBIs by Julio Zuleta in 1999, when the franchise was a Cubs affiliate and known as the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx.

While O’Neill now owns the franchise RBI record, he needs a strong final week to become the Southern League’s first triple-crown winner since outfielder Mike Reinbach of the Asheville Orioles in 1972.

O’Neill entered Tuesday with a 13-RBI lead but ranked second in batting average and home runs. His .297 average was five points behind Zach Granite of Chattanooga (Twins), and he 24 homers were one behind Ken Cron of Mobile (Diamondbacks).

Looking back

It was 26 years ago Wednesday — Aug. 31, 1990 — that Ken Griffey Jr. and Ken Griffey Sr. played together for the first time in a major-league game.

It came two days after the Mariners signed Ken Griffey Sr., who had been been released Aug. 24 by Cincinnati. He batted second and played left field, while Ken Griffey Jr. batted third and played center field.

Both had singles in a three-run first inning that led to a 5-2 victory over Kansas City at the Kingdome.

On tap

The Mariners and Rangers conclude their three-game series at 11:05 a.m. Pacific time Wednesday at Globe Life Park. Right-hander Felix Hernandez (9-4 with a 3.14 ERA) will face Texas left-hander Martin Perez (8-10, 4.45).

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.

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