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Mariners DH Nelson Cruz returns from DL ahead of Game 2 vs A’s

Nelson Cruz is back from an ankle injury and in the lineup for the Mariners on Saturday night. (AP)

The Seattle Mariners offense has taken a big step towards getting back to full strength.

All-Star designated hitter Nelson Cruz has been activated from the disabled list and is in the lineup for Saturday’s Game 2 of the Mariners’ three-game set with division rival Oakland.

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To make room on the active roster for Cruz, the Mariners optioned right-handed reliever Casey Lawrence to Triple-A Tacoma.

Cruz sprained his ankle on March 31 during the second game of the season, slipping on the steps leading from the team’s dugout to the clubhouse moments after hitting his second home run of 2018.

The Mariners went 6-3 in their time without Cruz, with right fielder Mitch Haniger filling in as the cleanup hitter and Daniel Vogelbach seeing increased at-bats at DH.

Cruz, a five-time All-Star, is coming off a 2017 campaign in which he hit 39 home runs and led the American League with 119 RBIs. The 37-year-old slugger has hit 39 or more homers in each of the last four seasons, three of which he has played for Seattle.

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Cruz is the first of four starting position players expected back in the next week or two from the DL. Left fielder Ben Gamel and catcher Mike Zunino should both be back from oblique strains by the end of the current homestand, and first baseman Ryon Healy may return at some point during the following road trip from an ankle sprain.

Lawrence, 30, broke camp with the Mariners after an impressive spring training. As an extra man in the bullpen to start the season, he threw 2 2/3 perfect innings on March 31 against Cleveland but allowed five runs on four hits and two walks over 1 2/3 innings in a loss to Kansas City on April 9.

Here is the Mariners’ lineup for Saturday’s 6:10 p.m. game with the A’s on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Mariners (7-4)

Dee Gordon, CF
Jean Segura, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Mitch Haniger, RF
Daniel Vogelbach, 1B
Ichiro Suzuki, LF
David Freitas, C

Marco Gonzales, LHP

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