Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Cruz says he turned down chance to participate in Home Run Derby

Nelson Cruz is hoping to attend the Home Run Derby at this year’s All-Star Game … as a spectator.

The Seattle Mariners’ slugger confirmed Tuesday that he turned down an invitation to participate in the July 13 spectacle at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, which takes place one night before the All-Star Game.

“I would love to do it,” Cruz said, “but at the same time, I have to think about my teammates and the team. If I (participate), it can wear me out for two or three days.

“It’s not fair for the team, and it’s not fair for my teammates. It’s just the way it is.”

Cruz is currently positioned to be in Cincinnati for the All-Star festivities as the American League’s starting designated hitter after surging ahead of Kansas City’s Kendrys Morales in the latest balloting update.

“I felt blessed,” Cruz said. “All the votes I get, I’m always going to thank the fans. They take time to go (online) and vote. You should recognize that even if you don’t get that many votes.

“You always have to appreciate their effort.”

Balloting for the All-Star Game runs through 8:59 p.m. Thursday, and the starters for both leagues will be announced at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.

Cruz entered Tuesday with 19 homers, but had only one over his previous 28 games. That prompted a joke at his own expense when asked if he believed participating in the Derby would mess up his swing.

“I don’t think my swing is that good,” he laughed, “that it’s going to be more messed up than it is right now. It’s not one of my concerns.”

Instead, Cruz pointed to the fatigue that he recalled experiencing after taking part in the 2009 Derby in St. Louis, when he reached the final round before losing to Prince Fielder, then playing for the Milwaukee Brewers.

“You can get tired,” said Cruz, whose 59 homers since the start of 2014 rank second in the majors to the 64 by Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton. “I got there once, and it really (got to) me, especially the last round.

“I don’t blame the guys who want to go because I know it’s really fun. The fans deserve to see the show. It’s a great event. You want to see guys hit home runs, but I think the team is more important than anything else.”

ROTATION PLANS

The Mariners are tentatively listing Roenis Elias, J.A. Happ, Felix Hernandez and Mike Montgomery as their starting pitchers for a series this weekend at Oakland.

That’s subject to change after the club officials evaluate Hisashi Iwakuma’s rehab start Tuesday for Triple-A Tacoma against Las Vegas (Mets) at Cheney Stadium.

“I would imagine (a decision will be made) in the next couple of days,” Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. “A lot of that depends on how he pitches. We’ll go from there.”

Iwakuma could rejoin the Mariners’ rotation as soon as Sunday’s game against the Athletics.

Because of Monday’s open date in the schedule, Happ and/or Hernandez could shift up one day in the schedule.

PAXTON UPDATE

McClendon dampened expectations for lefty James Paxton, who is recovering from a strained tendon in his middle finger.

McClendon reported that Paxton is playing catch at 60-75 feet, but cautioned: “This is going to be a slow process with Paxton. We might as well concentrate on other things. Paxton is going to be out for a while.”

A normal progression of playing catch, long toss, bullpen workouts, simulated games and a rehab assignment suggests that Paxton is unlikely to return before late August.

HITLESS STREAK

The Mariners entered Tuesday’s game without a hit from a pitcher in interleague play since Hector Noesi had two singles against Edinson Volquez on June 24, 2012, at Petco Park.

They were a collective 0 for 44 with four walks and seven successful sacrifice bunts.

MANAGERIAL SWITCH

Former Triple-A Tacoma manager Roy Howell is managing again in the Mariners organization.

Howell replaces Jim Horner as the manager at Double-A Jackson after Horner resigned to become an assistant coach at Washington State, his alma mater. Howell had been serving as Jackson’s hitting coach.

This marks the second time the Mariners turned to Howell in a pinch.

Howell replaced Rich Donnelly a year ago as the Rainiers manager when Donnelly moved to the big-league staff to replace an ailing John Stearns.

Howell, 61, led Tacoma to a 74-70 record before returning to his original job as the Generals hitting coach.

Howell batted .261 in an 11-year, big-league career from 1974-84, with 80 homers and 454 RBIs in 1,112 games.

SIMS MISSING

Broadcaster Dave Sims will miss the two games in San Diego following the death of his father-in-law, Norm Corsun.

Aaron Goldsmith shifted Tuesday from radio to replace Sims as the play-by-play broadcaster alongside analyst Mike Blowers on Root Sports Northwest.

SHORT HOPS

The Mariners are showing interest in free-agent catcher Erik Kratz, according to multiple reports. …The Padres recalled infielder Jedd Gyorko from Triple-A El Paso before Tuesday’s game after placing infielder Cory Spangenberg on the disabled list because of a bruised left knee.

ON TAP

The Mariners and Padres conclude their two-game series at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday at Petco Park. Right-hander Taijuan Walker (6-6, 4.64 ERA) will face San Diego right-hander James Shields (7-2, 4.24).

The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN.

The Mariners then head to Oakland to complete their three-city trip with four weekend games against the Athletics at the O.co Coliseum.

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