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Mariners adjusting to Minnesota temperatures

Series vs. Twins could be one of coldest in franchise history; Seattle exercising caution with Zunino
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

MINNEAPOLIS -- Cold weather isn't all in the mind, not when temperatures are expected to be around the freezing level for all of the Mariners' three-game series against the Twins at Target Field.

But manager Scott Servais, who grew up in Wisconsin, and his team insisted they'll try to ignore the elements as best as possible in what figures to be one of the colder series in franchise history.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Cold weather isn't all in the mind, not when temperatures are expected to be around the freezing level for all of the Mariners' three-game series against the Twins at Target Field.

But manager Scott Servais, who grew up in Wisconsin, and his team insisted they'll try to ignore the elements as best as possible in what figures to be one of the colder series in franchise history.

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"As long as the sun stays out, we'll be in good shape," Servais said prior to Thursday's series opener. "The raw temperature is what it is, but the sun certainly makes it feel better.

"You've just got to go play," Servais said. "Once your body gets loose and your body temperature gets up there, you're good to go. They have heaters in the dugout and guys will adjust. Adrenaline is a beautiful thing. It kicks in as soon as you get in the batter's box or step on the mound or the ball is hit to you. It's amazing how things take over."

Video: SEA@SF: Vogelbach plates Cano on a double to left

The Mariners have played just 11 games since 1988 in which the first-pitch temperature was below 40 degrees, and the coldest first-pitch temperature since '88 was 34 degrees in Chicago against the White Sox on April 5, 2013 and in Detroit against the Tigers on April 9, 1996.

The first-pitch temperature on Thursday was forecasted for 38 degrees, but the high on Saturday and Sunday in Minneapolis is projected to be 31 degrees.

Right-hander Mike Leake, who will start Saturday's 11:10 a.m. PT game, has pitched for Cincinnati and St. Louis in his Major League career and dealt with cold weather in those cities, but he acknowledged that this weekend's outlook is "kind of up there, especially not having a dome or roof" at Target Field.

"You just have to bundle up and stay as warm as you can," Leake said. "If you can keep your hand warm and stay mobile and make sure your blood is flowing, for the most part you can keep your grip. Once you start getting cold and losing that feel, that's when you start losing it. You have to try to ignore it. If you can block out the weather and get the tunnel vision, it distracts you from how cold it is."

Daniel Vogelbach, a Florida native getting the start at designated hitter while Nelson Cruz is on the disabled list, will draw on his time playing in Wisconsin in the Midwest League while in the Cubs' Minor League system.

"Nobody is feeling sorry for you because it's cold outside," said Vogelbach. "You just have to get ready to play, mentally, and go out and find a way to win the game."

Video: Must C Combo: Zunino connect for three homers

Zunino's return plans slowed

After initially hoping catcher Mike Zunino might be able to come off the 10-day disabled list this weekend, manager Scott Servais said the plan is now to slow down that return as he works back from a strained left oblique.

Servais said Zunino didn't suffer any setbacks when taking part in a simulated game on Tuesday in Tacoma, Wash., but the club wants to be careful, particularly with the upcoming cold-weather games.

"Just going off what the medical people say, let's just be safe instead of sorry on this one," Servais said. "So we're just slowing down a little. Still hopeful to get him back soon. I don't think it's going to be four to six weeks, but based on where the temperatures are here, just tap the brakes a little bit."

Video: Ben Gamel is the latest injured Mariners outfielder

Left fielder Ben Gamel began his Minor League rehab with Class A Advanced Modesto on Thursday as he works back from his own right oblique strain. Gamel has been sidelined since March 2.

Servais said the swelling has gone out of Cruz's sprained right ankle, and that the slugger will begin baseball activities in the next day or two. There's no decision yet on whether the veteran designated hitter will need a Minor League rehab stint or not. He's tentatively targeted to come off the DL when Seattle opens its next homestand on April 13.

Erasmo Ramirez came out of Tuesday's simulated game with no issues, and he is slated to make his first rehab start Saturday for Triple-A Tacoma as he returns from a strained right lat.

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

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