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Injury updates: Cruz, Gamel, Zunino

All three regulars expected back soon; Miranda tabbed to start Wednesday
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

MINNEAPOLIS -- With Ben Gamel having already played two Minor League rehab games and Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino progressing from their injuries back in Seattle, manager Scott Servais said Saturday there's an outside chance that all three could be ready to rejoin the club when the Mariners return home on Friday.

Servais often takes the most positive outlook on injury returns, and he's already had to slow down on hopes that Zunino might be back from his strained right oblique by this weekend in Minnesota, but clearly the injured trio won't be too far away when the team gets back to Seattle.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- With Ben Gamel having already played two Minor League rehab games and Nelson Cruz and Mike Zunino progressing from their injuries back in Seattle, manager Scott Servais said Saturday there's an outside chance that all three could be ready to rejoin the club when the Mariners return home on Friday.

Servais often takes the most positive outlook on injury returns, and he's already had to slow down on hopes that Zunino might be back from his strained right oblique by this weekend in Minnesota, but clearly the injured trio won't be too far away when the team gets back to Seattle.

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"There's a chance we could get close to having three of our projected starters back by then, but it's just a chance," Servais said. "We'll wait and see."

Cruz has been sidelined since spraining his right ankle in the second game of the season, when he slipped on the dugout steps at Safeco Field after homering for the second straight day. He's slated to resume baseball activities and hit off a tee on Sunday or Monday. Cruz is eligible to come off the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday -- the final day of the current eight-game road trip -- but his return won't be considered until Friday's game at Safeco against the A's, at the earliest.

"We're hopeful," Servais said. "But until he gets into much baseball activity, it's hard to know when he should be available."

Zunino has already been catching bullpen sessions from Hisashi Iwakuma and Erasmo Ramirez, and the key for him will be swinging the bat without any hesitation. He'll likely take part in a brief Minor League stint before being cleared.

"You just want to make sure he's comfortable and not prohibited," Servais said. "The biggest thing coming back from an oblique sometimes is the swing and miss. You want to make sure he's OK there. But as far as game at-bats, [he'll need] maybe a game or two."

Gamel has already played games on Thursday and Friday for Class A Advanced Modesto, going 2-for-6 at the plate and playing left field in Friday's contest as he works back from the right oblique strain that has sidelined him since March 2.

Miranda lined up for Wednesday start
Left-hander Ariel Miranda threw five innings for Modesto in a California League game at Lancaster on Friday, giving up six hits and five runs (one earned) with two walks and five strikeouts in five innings. He'll get the start on Wednesday in Kansas City in the first game where the Mariners need a fifth starter.

Seattle will have to make a move at that point to add the 29-year-old to the 25-man roster, but the club is currently carrying an extra utility player in Taylor Motter in addition to Andrew Romine.

Ramirez is expected to eventually regain the fifth-starter role when he returns from a strained right lat, but the right-hander isn't expected back until later in April. That leaves Miranda -- who started 29 games and went 8-7 with a 5.12 ERA last year -- as the logical choice until then.

"That was the plan all along," Servais said. "He had an opportunity to pitch in Lancaster [on Friday] night. That's an interesting ballpark. It's cold and blows straight out. Miranda got through it OK. He got his pitches in and we'll probably go toward him when we need that fifth starter."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz, Ben Gamel, Mike Zunino