Seattle Mariners

Mariners notebook: Cano gets a look as the cleanup hitter

Robinson Cano is batting cleanup for the first time in his Mariners career on Wednesday. While with the New York Yankees, he did it in 158 games, hitting .328 in that role.
Robinson Cano is batting cleanup for the first time in his Mariners career on Wednesday. While with the New York Yankees, he did it in 158 games, hitting .328 in that role. AP

The latest tweak in the Seattle Mariners’ lineup had Robinson Cano batting cleanup Monday for the first time since he played in Yankees pinstripes.

The news caught Cano by surprise: “What? Really? I didn’t know that.”

Cano then walked to the posted lineup card in the clubhouse, tapped it and declared: “No difference between three and four.”

Well ... batting third, you know that you’ll hit in the first inning.

“That’s the only difference,” he said.

Manager Lloyd McClendon said he made the move to get Nelson Cruz’s right-handed bat between two lefties, Kyle Seager and Cano. He used the same approach earlier in the year when Seager was the regular No. 5 hitter.

“Just making it tough to match up,” McClendon said. “(Detroit) has two lefties in the bullpen. And maybe it’ll jump-start us. Who knows?”

Cano responded by going 2 for 4 with a homer, but the Mariners lost to Detroit, 5-4, on Ian Kinsler’s two-run homer in the eighth inning against reliever Mark Lowe.

It’s probably not a coincidence the move comes one day after the Mariners squandered a scoring opportunity with one out and runners on first and third when Yankees lefty CC Sabathia struck out Seager and Cano.

Those two strikeouts in the fifth inning prevented the Mariners from extending a one-run lead in what evolved into a 2-1 loss.

Cano’s last time at cleanup was Sept. 12, 2013 while playing for the Yankees at Baltimore, but he’s no stranger to the role. Cano has played 158 career games as the cleanup hitter.

And he has good career numbers when batting fourth: 36 home runs, 132 RBIs and a .328/.392/.577 slash (batting average/on-base percentage and slugging percentage).

The on-base and slugging percentages are his best career numbers at any spot in the batting order.

FURBUSH UPDATE

Plans called for lefty reliever Charlie Furbush to test his recovery from biceps tendinitis, McClendon said, by throwing a sideline session Monday at Safeco Field.

Furbush is tentatively scheduled for a bullpen workout Wednesday that would mark his first time on a mound since July 7 against the Tigers at home.

Plans originally called for Furbush to throw a simulated inning this week in Detroit, but continued soreness forced a revised timetable.

Furbush is 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA in 33 appearances this season and has stranded all 16 of his inherited runners.

ODDS NOT IN M’S FAVOR

The Mariners have an American League-worst 42-51 record, which means they must go 45-24 just to match last year’s record of 87-75.

As for their postseason chances, the Mariners, prior to Monday, have a 13.3 percent chance to end a drought that extends to 2001, according to computations by www.fangraphs.com.

More odds from Fangraphs on the Mariners:

▪ Gaining a wild-card berth: 9.2 percent.

▪ Winning the AL West Division: 4.1 percent.

▪ Winning an AL Division Series: 4.8 percent.

▪ Winning the AL Championship Series: 2.5 percent.

▪ Winning the World Series: 1.2 percent.

PAN AM HIGHLIGHTS

Triple-A Tacoma outfielder Pat Kivlehan batted .342 with three home runs over 11 games for the United States in the just-completed Pan American Games in Toronto.

The Americans lost the gold-medal game Sunday to Canada, 7-6, in 10 innings. Bakersfield outfielder Tyler O’Neill hit three home runs in the tournament for Canada.

LOOKING BACK

It was 17 years ago Tuesday — July 21, 1998 — that Ken Griffey Jr. reached 40 homers in a season quicker than anyone in history by doing so in the 100th game of the season.

Griffey reached the milestone in the fourth inning of an 8-3 victory at Tampa Bay.

It also marked his fifth season of hitting at least 40, and he would go on to match his career high by finishing with 56.

SHORT HOPS

The Mariners officially recalled lefty J.A. Happ prior to the game from Single-A Bakersfield. They cleared roster space late Sunday by optioning first baseman/designated hitter Jesus Montero to Tacoma. ... Austin Jackson stole two bases, which pushed his season total to a club-leading 10. Brad Miller has nine steals. … The Mariners’ .207 average with runners in scoring position ranks last among all major-league teams.

ON TAP

Seattle and Detroit continue the four-game series at 4:10 p.m. (PDT) Tuesday at Comerica Park.

Right-hander Taijuan Walker (7-7, 4.84 ERA) will face Tigers right-hander Shane Greene (4-7, 6.32). The game can be seen on Root Sports and heard on 710-AM.

bob.dutton@thenewstribune.com

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