SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners preparing for NL games, but have a Nelson Cruz dilemma

Aug 20, 2017, 10:05 AM | Updated: 10:55 am
Nelson Cruz may be coming off the bench in the Mariners' series in Atlanta without the DH. (AP)...
Nelson Cruz may be coming off the bench in the Mariners' series in Atlanta without the DH. (AP)
(AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – As expected, the Mariners made a roster move Sunday morning, recalling Taylor Motter from Tacoma and placing Danny Espinosa on waivers for the purpose of granting him his unconditional release.

With a three-game set in Atlanta starting Monday, the Mariners decided that Motter’s ability to play in both the infield and outfield would be useful in games without a designated hitter.

“We feel with going into the National League games with Taylor’s versatility, it is a nice weapon to have on the bench,” said Scott Servais. “Hopefully the at-bats are better, that’s what the reports have been.”

Drayer: Servais spends day off with former M’s skipper Piniella

Motter’s production took a nose dive in June and July as players came back from the disabled list and his own playing time became scarce. Since being optioned July 24 to the Rainiers, he has hit .350 with 24 runs scored, six doubles, a triple, seven home runs, 18 RBIs, 14 walks and six stolen bases.

On Sunday he got the start at third base as Servais wanted to give Kyle Seager another day to get his legs under him after missing two games with a stomach virus.

“Seager’s feeling better but not 100 percent yet,” said Servais.

As for the games coming up next in Atlanta, Servais’ biggest challenge might be keeping usual DH Nelson Cruz off the field.

“He’s going so good right now and I think he is probably the healthiest he has been all year and I don’t want to risk that,” Servais said. “I just think where we are at going forward down the stretch run it’s really risky to put him in the outfield the whole time. I’m not saying he couldn’t show up out there, but right now the plan is to play him off the bench.”

Servais has been meeting with Cruz in his office the last few days to discuss the situation, and on Saturday night he thought Cruz had finally accepted the idea of not playing in the field for three games. Sunday morning was a different story.

“He came back in this morning and he is pleading to get back in the outfield,” he said. “Things could change but I think we have got to be smart.”

We will see what happens.

Notes

• After pitching in the first two games of the Tampa series, Emilio Pagan is most likely unavailable out of the bullpen Sunday. Casey Lawrence will be leaned on for innings if needed.

• Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma are not on the road trip, but all are moving forward in their rehab programs. Iwakuma is scheduled to throw a bullpen Monday in Seattle. Hernandez is expected to start throwing Tuesday and I am told that while Paxton is not throwing yet, he is making progress in his recovery from a pectoral strain.

• After going 8-20 in their first 28 games away from Safeco Field, the Mariners pulled to .500 on the road at 29-29 with Saturday’s win.

• We could see a first Sunday. The Rays are winless against the Mariners this year, and an M’s win would give them their first season series sweep of five games or more in team history.

Date Starting Pitcher
Thursday, September 29 @ 6:40 pm Mariners' Marco Gonzales vs. Rangers' Jon Gray

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