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Mariners’ Servais ‘optimistic’ Nelson Cruz can return Saturday

Nelson Cruz has two home runs in two games but has been out of action for almost two weeks. (AP)

The return of designated hitter Nelson Cruz is almost in clear focus for the Seattle Mariners.

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Manager Scott Servais said before Friday’s series opener against the Oakland Athletics that he is “optimistic” Cruz will be activated from the 10-day disabled list in time to play Saturday or Sunday.

“Nelson called me this morning at home and let me know kinda where he was at. Very sternly said he was ready to go,” Servais said, “but I said, ‘Well, let’s see you get out here today and kinda run around a little bit.’ … I thought it went OK. He’s not at 100 percent yet, but we need him in the lineup so as soon as we can we’ll get him in there.”

Cruz has been out since the second game of the season on March 31 when he sprained his ankle on the steps leading from the Mariners’ dugout to the clubhouse at Safeco Field just moments after hitting his second home run of the year.

Servais reported the team made a change to those dugout steps, by the way.

“We have fixed the steps in the dugout. They do not have that slick thing on them anymore, it has a tacky surface on it so we’ve made improvements there. Hopefully that doesn’t happen again.”

Here are a few more updates on injured Mariners provided by Servais:

Left fielder Ben Gamel, who previously had his projected return pushed back from Friday to this weekend, may need extra time still coming back from an oblique strain suffered early in spring training.

“I think as we started playing him a lot (in minor league games on rehab assignment), we realized that he kinda needed to catch his wind a little bit. He hadn’t had spring training,” Servais said. “We gave him an off day the other day, he played last night, he’ll probably play again tonight. … Gamel physically is ready to go, we just want to give him at-bats.”

Catcher Mike Zunino took batting practice on the field Friday but will need a short rehab assignment before returning from an oblique strain suffered the day before the season started.

“Probably get him a rehab game or two and then see where he’s at at that point,” Servais said.

First baseman Ryon Healy is ahead of schedule in recovering from an ankle sprain suffered April 6 in Minnesota and was set to start baseball activity Friday.

“Original time on Healy was 2-3 weeks (out of action); could be a little quicker than that,” Servais said.

Starting pitcher Erasmo Ramirez may need one more rehab start before joining the Mariners’ roster following a lat strain in spring training.

“He and (Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.) are gonna sit down and kinda map out his program,” Servais said. “Do we need the fifth starter, or do we give him one more turn at Triple-A yet on a rehab assignment? We haven’t decided where that one’s at yet.”

Servais said southpaw Ariel Miranda is sill in line to be called up from Triple-A to join the Mariners’ rotation next week when they need a fifth starter, but Ramirez will assume that spot when he’s ready.

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