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Seattle Mariners' Cruz hopes to put best foot forward vs. Detroit Tigers

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Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz. File photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

By Gene Warnick, The Sports Xchange, UPI

Nelson Cruz looked into his locker and pointed at an array of foot and shin guards the Seattle Mariners' designated hitter planned to choose from.

"I'm going to wear a pad over it," he told The Seattle Times, referring to the deep bone bruise on his right foot courtesy of being hit by a pitch Tuesday against Texas.

When it was suggested he might want to wear one on each leg considering the lengthy list of injuries he's suffered this season, he shook his head.

"It would be too uncomfortable to play with two," he said. "I would feel like a catcher."

Cruz returned to his customary cleanup spot Friday against Detroit and plans to be there Saturday night when the Mariners face right-hander Mike Fiers (4-2, 4.23 ERA), who is 1-0 with a 6.00 ERA in five previous starts against Seattle.

Seattle left-hander James Paxton (2-1, 3.52 ERA) is scheduled to make his first home start since throwing a no-hitter in Toronto, becoming the first Canadian to accomplish the feat in his native country.

Against Detroit, Paxton is 2-1 with a 3.41 ERA in six career starts.

He was the starter against Detroit this past Sunday, giving up three runs and six hits in six innings, but Paxton was not involved in the decision in a game the Tigers won 5-4.

Cruz's return took on added significance after teammate Robinson Cano was suspended 80 games by Major League Baseball this week for violating its policy against performance-enhancing drugs.

"It's nice to get (Cruz) back in the lineup," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "The lineup is just different having his presence in there and the other guys around can be a little more relaxed. Hopefully he's going to be fine."

The foot injury is merely the latest for Cruz, a five-time All-Star who is batting .234 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs in 33 games this season.

In spring training, he had a viral infection and a quadriceps strain. After hitting a home run in the second game of the season, he sprained his ankle stumbling on the bottom step of the dugout stairs, forcing him to the 10-day disabled list.

On the Mariners' most recent trip, he battled the flu and then came home to get hit on the foot.

"The first thing I have to worry about is my health. Then we'll get my swing right," said Cruz, 37, who led the American League with 119 RBIs last season when he batted .288 with 39 home runs. "I felt pretty good, so it's a shame I have to go back (to starting over again). But that's part of the game. Hopefully, this is it and from now on I can focus and just play the game."

Cruz got his first stolen base of the season last weekend and scored from first on a double Tuesday before getting hit with the pitch.

"He was running as good as I'd seen him all year and starting to feel better," Servais said. "Then, 'Wham-o,' he gets hit in the foot.

"It's been a number of little nagging things all season. Hopefully, knock on wood, that's behind him and nothing else happens and he can go forward and get on that hot streak. He's certainly capable of doing it. We've seen it in the past."

The Tigers also got a boost Friday with the return of center fielder Leonys Martin, who had been on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain.

Martin worked out before the game and was cleared to return.

"He's fine; he's been driving us crazy in here," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He came in, he said he feels great. There you have it. He wants to play."


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Sports - U.S. Daily News: Seattle Mariners' Cruz hopes to put best foot forward vs. Detroit Tigers
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