The odd-man out Thursday turned out to be outfielder Justin Ruggiano.
The Seattle Mariners designated Ruggiano for assignment prior to their series opener against Tampa Bay as a corresponding roster move to clear space for catcher Jesus Sucre’s return from Triple-A Tacoma.
The move comes one day after the Mariners acquired outfielder/first baseman Mark Trumbo and pitcher Vidal Nuno from Arizona in a six-player deal that included backup catcher Welington Castillo.
Adding Trumbo overloaded the roster with right-handed-hitting outfielders, which put Ruggiano and Rickie Weeks at risk. The Mariners opted to keep Weeks.
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“The particulars are not something I want to discuss,” manager Lloyd McClendon said, but obviously there is going to be a tremendous lack of playing time for whoever that guy was (who remained).
“Hopefully, this gives (Ruggiano) a chance to catch on with somebody else.”
The move also suggests the Mariners are willing to wait a while longer to see whether Weeks can find a groove as a productive right-handed bat off the bench after signing him in February to a one-year deal for $2 million.
Weeks, 32, spent 11 years as Milwaukee’s regular second baseman but is batting just .169 in 77 at-bats over 33 games with two homers and nine RBIs.
“It was a very difficult decision,” McClendon said, “but you’ve got to have a backup catcher. You can only carry 25, so somebody had to go.”
The Mariners needed to add a backup catcher after including Castillo in the trade package along with reliever Dominic Leone and two minor-leaguers, outfielder Gabby Guerrero and shortstop Jack Reinheimer.
Sucre, 27, was 1 for 15 while playing just six games before getting optioned May 19 to Tacoma after the Mariners acquired Castillo from the Chicago Cubs for reliever Yoervis Medina.
At Tacoma, Sucre was 6 for 23 in six games.
Ruggiano, 33, batted .214 in 36 games with just two homers and three RBIs but had a .321 on-base percentage in 81 plate appearances.
The Mariners acquired Ruggiano in a Dec. 17 trade with the Chicago Cubs for minor-league reliever Matt Brazis in the belief he could be an effective backup player at all three outfield positions.
It was telling then, perhaps, that McClendon increasingly used Dustin Ackley and utilityman Willie Bloomquist as late-inning defensive replacements.
Trumbo and Nuno arrived in time to take part in pre-game workouts. Trumbo also started Thursday at first base and batted fifth.
“It’s a lot to take in initially,” Trumbo said, “but when I found out this was the team I was going to, I couldn’t have been happier.
“I’ve loved coming here when I was with the Angels. It’s one of my favorite places in the country — or the world, for that matter.”
Trumbo has no concerns about playing at Safeco Field, which is often viewed as a tough park on power hitters. As an opponent, he batted .243 in 29 games at Safeco with four homers and 11 RBIs.
“I’ve had no problem with it,” he said. “I see the ball pretty well, and that’s what I really care about. At times, the perception is it plays pretty big, but I look forward to the challenge of taking it on.
“I’ve seen plenty of guys have productive years here.”
Trumbo was initially scheduled to serve as the designated hitter,, but he switched to first base when Logan Morrison was scratched because of back spasms.
McClendon said Nuno will serve, at least initially, as the club’s long reliever.
“I think that depends on what we get out of (Mike) Montgomery,” McClendon said. “But it’s nice to have that guy, to know that he’s a swing guy. If you need a starter, he’s your guy.”
Nuno spent most of this season as a starter at Triple-A Reno but made three relief appearances for Arizona. He said he had no preference between starting or relieving.
“It’s just about whatever the team needs,” he said. “Whatever the manager and the pitching coach prefer me doing, I’m willing to do.”
McClendon is heading to the All-Star Game as a coach for the second time in his career after being appointed to the American League staff by Kansas City manager Ned Yost.
Major League Baseball announced the coaching staffs Thursday for the July 14 game in Cincinnati, but McClendon said Yost extended the offer several weeks ago.
McClendon said, “I told Ned that I’m very appreciative that he thought of me to have me as one of his coaches. It’s pretty neat.”
Houston manager A.J. Hinch will join McClendon on the AL staff along with members from Yost’s staff in Kansas City, which includes former Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, who is the Royals’ bench coach.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy appointed Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly and Cincinnati manager Bryan Price to the National League staff. Price was the Mariners’ pitching coach from 2000-05.
McClendon previously served as a National League coach in 2003 under Chicago manager Dusty Baker. McClendon was Pittsburgh’s manager at the time.
“It’s a lot of fun,” McClendon said. “Cincinnati is where I started my big-league career. It will be fun to go back and visit with some folks. And I don’t have to work it. It’s even better.”
The only other Mariners manager to serve as an All-Star coach was Lou Piniella in 2000 and 2001.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma worked from a mound for the first time since an April 20 start against Houston when he threw a 27-pitch bullpen workout before the Mariners started their regular pre-game drills.
“I felt good,” said Iwakuma, who threw only fastballs. “No stress or tension; (it) was pain free. It was a good bullpen.”
Iwakuma suffered a strained back muscle — specifically, a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle — on April 21 in a routine day-after throwing session following his last start.
Barring any setbacks, Iwakuma will throw bullpen workouts again Sunday and next week before moving to the next step: a simulated game.
“He was very good,” pitching coach Rick Waits said. “Better than I anticipated. I was pleasantly surprised. I anticipated he’d be good, but this was better than I thought it would be.”
It was 18 years ago Friday — June 5, 1997 — that Alex Rodriguez became the second player in franchise history to hit for a cycle when he did so in a 14-6 victory at Detroit.
Rodriguez did it the hard way, too. He got a triple in the eighth inning and a double in the ninth.
There have been four cycles in franchise history: Jay Buhner on June 23, 1993 vs. Oakland at the Kingdome; Rodriguez; John Olerud on June 16, 2001 at San Diego; and Adrian Beltre on Sept. 1, 2008 at Texas.
The Mariners and Rays have a history of close games. Entering the series, half of their previous 36 games (18) had been decided by one run. Overall, the two clubs were 18-18 in that stretch. ... Third baseman Kyle Seager has played in 179 consecutive games, which ranks second among active players. ... Morrison entered the series with an 11-game hitting streak. His career best was a 13-game run last season from July 20-Aug. 12.
The Mariners and Rays continue their four-game series at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field. Left-hander J.A. Happ (3-1, 3.70 ERA) will face Tampa Bay right-hander Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 2.61).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710-AM.