Prior to his 80-game suspension, Robinson Cano played just one inning at a position other than second base or designated hitter. Since returning, he's played three games at first base, and now, one at third base. Manager Scott Servais told Cano to just "go out, have fun with it."
As Robinson Cano entered the clubhouse Wednesday morning, hours before the first pitch of the Mariners’ rubber match against the Astros, he did something he hasn’t really had to do before in his career: check the lineup to see where he’ll play in the infield.
He found the lineup posted on the bulletin board, and smiled. Cano saw that, with teammate Kyle Seager getting a day of rest, he would be playing at third base for the first time in his major league career.
In preparation for Cano’s return from an 80-game suspension — and with Dee Gordon playing so well at second — Cano was asked by the Mariners to put in some work at first and third so that they could move him around the infield when he returned. Since being reinstated on Aug. 14, Cano has played four games at second base, two at first and one at DH for the Mariners. And Wednesday he played his first game at third.
“We talked about Robbie’s versatility and willingness to go to those different spots. We were going to do it, we’re doing it,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said before Wednesday’s game. “(I told him) go out, have fun with it. … Go out like you’re taking ground balls before the game. Don’t think it too much. Just go play the game.”
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Cano mostly had a quiet day at third, though he had a particularly impressive play in the sixth inning. He made a backhanded grab on a sharp grounder that was hit down the third-base line and seamlessly made the throw to first for the out.
“I thought he handled it well,” Servais said. “A couple easy plays and a tough one that he made look easy. Robbie’s a talented player. He’s got good hands. I thought he handled it really well.”
Prior his suspension, Cano had played all but one inning of his major league career at second base or DH. Besides playing five games at third when he was working his way up through the minors in 2005 and 2006, he played one game at third for the Everett AquaSox during his rehab stint. He played one inning at shortstop in 2013 with the Yankees.
“It feels weird, haven’t played there in a long time,” Cano said. “But I’m glad that the only hard one I got, I was able to make that play.”
Cano also recorded his 525th career double on Wednesday, which is tied for 45th-most doubles all-time.
When Marco Gonzales took the mound on Wednesday, back from an extra three days of rest, he was the eighth different starting pitcher the club has used in eight games. And as the Mariners prepare to head out for a three-city road trip after Wednesday’s game, the team’s starting pitching continues to look largely in flux.
Servais said Wedneday that Erasmo Ramirez will start Friday for the Game 1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but from there the rest is uncertain, depending on the health of Mike Leake and James Paxton.
Leake was scheduled to start yesterday but was scratched after coming down with an illness.
“Mike Leake is really skinny to begin with and he looks even skinnier today,” Servais said. “I don’t think he’s been able to eat a lot. His strength’s not there.”
In place of Leake, short-inning reliever Nick Vincent got the start on Tuesday. Ross Detwiler, whose contract the Mariners had selected from Class AAA Tacoma before the game, replaced Vincent and pitched for six innings. Detwiler was designated for assignment before Wednesday’s game, and right-handed pitcher Nick Rumbelow was recalled from Tacoma. Rumbelow replaced Gonzales in the fourth and allowed only one run in 3.0 innings pitched.
“I thought Rumbelow did ok,” Servais said. “He hung in there, he gave us three innings today, which is more than what he normally (does).”
This is Rumbelow’s fourth stint with the Mariners this season. During the first three, he made eight relief appearances, striking out eight and allowing nine earned runs in 10 1/3 innings pitched.
Meanwhile, Paxton is looking to play catch Thursday and throw a bullpen session in Arizona on Friday. Servais insisted that Paxton has a ‘zero-percent chance’ of playing Sunday and that they’re looking to insert him back into the rotation early next week.
Cruz’s back, Segura tweaks rib cage
After another flare up of back issues that kept him out of the lineup on Tuesday, Nelson Cruz returned to the Mariners lineup at DH on Wednesday, and they were quite happy he did. Cruz helped get the Mariners’ offense going against the Astros, blasting a solo home run that got Seattle on the board in the fourth and notching a leadoff double to kick off a slew of scoring in the sixth.
Cruz, who experienced back spasms after Monday’s series opener against the Astros, got in some rest on Tuesday, though he ended up pinch hitting for Chris Herrmann in the eighth inning. After Wednesday, Cruz will also be able to recharge some during the team’s upcoming slate of National League play, as Servais said they won’t be putting him in the field.
“He hasn’t felt good just physically. He was a little rundown coming off the last road trip,” Servais said of Cruz. “He hasn’t been quite the same, you’ve seen it in the batters box. He’s been off a little bit… It happens, ebb and flow of the season. Guys get a little worn down.”
Meanwhile, Andrew Romine replaced Jean Segura at shortstop in the fifth inning after Segura tweaked something around his upper rib cage that had been bothering him before first pitch. Servais had no updates on the shortstop after the game.