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Drayer: Nelson Cruz hopes ovation in season finale wasn’t Mariners sendoff

Nelson Cruz played right field in an American League park for the first time since 2016 on Sunday afternoon. While he loves to play in the field, the start in right was not a reward. The reason for putting him in the field was far more bittersweet.

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For Mariners manager Scott Servais, it was an opportunity to get his designated hitter a little extra recognition on the final day of the season – and perhaps his final day as a Mariner.

When Ben Gamel trotted out to right field in the top of the fourth inning to give Cruz a hug and take his place, the fans rose to their feet.

“I never imagined in my career I would have that,” said Cruz of the moment on the field and the reaction from the crowd. “It’s something you see great players do. It’s something that is going to stick in my mind.”

Many in the crowd no doubt were hoping they were thanking Cruz just for a good season, not a good career as a Mariner. His contract is up and he will become a free agent when the World Series ends. It is hard to find anyone who wants to see that happen.

“I think the world of Nelson Cruz,” said Servais. “I have a long history with him. When he came to Seattle I knew right away he was going to be key not only for our team on the field but for me in the clubhouse, and it certainly has played out that way. I hope to God we can bring him back. I really do.”

Kyle Seager echoed Servais’ thoughts.

“His presence in this clubhouse, it goes I think slightly unnoticed,” he said. “He works unbelievably hard. He plays hard. You never see a lack of hustle or lack of care. He’s an absolute role model for everyone to look up to. It’s been an absolute privilege to play with him.”

For Seager, the thought of Cruz not in the lineup is unthinkable.

“I certainly don’t want to have to go down that road,” he said.

As for Cruz himself, he’s waiting. With the season over, he hopes an offer from the Mariners is on the agenda. He has yet to be approached with one.

“I guess we have to wait and hope for the best,” he said. “I can tell you, time goes quick. It feels like yesterday when I came here. Is it really four years? Hopefully we can get something done and I can be able to come back. If not, I understand it is a business too.”

In hoping for the best, Cruz is hoping to stay in Seattle. While he splits his offseason time between homes in the Dominican Republic and Texas, the Mariners’ clubhouse has also become a home of sorts.

“I want to be part of the team,” he answered when asked why hoping for the best was Seattle. “I came with a goal that I haven’t accomplished, so I look for that.”

The situation for now is largely out of his hands, but he has done what he can by making his preference to stay known.

“You just have to be patient,” he said. “I guess trust your agent, the work you put in and hopefully you can find a good house.”

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