The Mariners need Nelson Cruz’s bat in the lineup in this National League city so he starts in right field.
DENVER — It’s not an ideal situation for the Mariners. Being forced to play Nelson Cruz in right field takes away from the run prevention aspect of their typical daily lineup. The roster was constructed with Cruz as the designated hitter and the fleet group of youngsters to handle covering the outfield.
But all that ends when the Mariners enter a National League park and lose the DH. Manager Scott Servais faces the dilemma of better defense for nine innings or the need for Cruz at the plate five times in a game.
Earlier in the season in Philadelphia, Servais benched Cruz for the two games, using him as a pinch-hitter. But he was also bothered by a strained hamstring and couldn’t run well. Cruz started two games in Washington, D.C., against the Nationals. In a 10-1 loss, he couldn’t make a play on a fly ball that needed to be caught with two outs. Instead of a scoreless inning, the Nationals reeled off eight runs.
Despite the massive outfield of Coors Field, making defense a premium, Cruz got the start in right field Monday. He will start in both games.
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“We need him in the lineup,” Servais said. “Coors Field definitely has its challenges.”
The first ball of Monday’s 6-5 win was a rocket off the bat of Charlie Blackmon right to Cruz that he gloved ably. Cruz made all the plays in right and drove in a run and scored a run.
Felix Hernandez felt good coming out of his bullpen session Saturday in Boston. He will throw another bullpen session Tuesday.
“He’s progressing in the right direction,” Servais said.
Hisashi Iwakuma is not progressing as well. Iwakuma admitted his shoulder didn’t feel great after his bullpen session Saturday. He played catch Monday, but isn’t scheduled to return to the mound for 2-3 days at the…