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Negron shows pop as he continues to impress

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

ANAHEIM -- Utilty man Kristopher Negron, acquired by the Mariners from the D-backs in a cash deal on Aug. 30, showed he's got a little pop in the bat with a 406-foot home run in Saturday's 6-5 win over the Angels.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder hadn't hit a home run in the Majors since 2014 in limited playing time with the Reds and D-backs, but he hit six homers in 144 at-bats in 2014 with Cincinnati in the season he saw his most playing time in his five-year career while batting .271/.331/.479 in 49 games.

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ANAHEIM -- Utilty man Kristopher Negron, acquired by the Mariners from the D-backs in a cash deal on Aug. 30, showed he's got a little pop in the bat with a 406-foot home run in Saturday's 6-5 win over the Angels.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder hadn't hit a home run in the Majors since 2014 in limited playing time with the Reds and D-backs, but he hit six homers in 144 at-bats in 2014 with Cincinnati in the season he saw his most playing time in his five-year career while batting .271/.331/.479 in 49 games.

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Saturday's home run was his first in 127 big league at-bats since that season and he jetted around the bases at a brisk pace. But Negron said that speedy trot had nothing to do with the time between his MLB homers.

"That's the funny thing," Negron said. "It's always that fast. It's something I've been doing since I was in [the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2006]. My first pro homer just barely got over and I wasn't quite sure, so I just kept running hard. And ever since then, even when I'm in the Minor Leagues, every home run, I run hard."

Negron hit 15 home runs in 371 at-bats this season for Triple-A Reno in the D-backs organization before being dealt to Seattle and had 13 homers in 387 at-bats in '17 as well.

"I don't try to hit homers, by any means," he said. "I'm not a home run hitter, but I can run into a few every now and then. I got a hanging offspeed pitch and was able to put a good swing on it."

"You see it in BP," manager Scott Servais said of Negron's surprising power. "He's got a little snap to the end of the bat. He's not a big guy and you won't see a ton of home runs out of him, but when he gets his pitch, he can drive the ball."

The Mariners are more interested in Negron's versatility, however. They picked up the California native to see what he might offer as a potential utility fit for next year and he used Saturday's start to full advantage, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs, stealing a base and scoring twice.

"He played a really good game, kind of showed all his skills," Servais said. "He ran the bases, used the whole field to hit, had a big home run. He did a lot of things to help us win the ballgame. When you're looking at utility guys, you're not always looking for the big three-run double or home run or anything. It's more the little things and he did a lot of those things."

Negron was drafted by the Red Sox in 2006 as a shortstop, but transitioned to a utility role after being traded to the Reds.

"That's part of who I am now," he said. "I can't really put down a position anymore. It's kind of neat to see a UT next to my name all the time. I welcome the challenge. It took me awhile to get comfortable with it, but I've been doing it so long now, every position feels like home."

His goal over the final two weeks with his new club?

"Just help the team win any way I can," he said. "Whether it's running late in a game, getting starts against lefties, coming in and playing defense, it doesn't really matter. Just help the team win any way I can. And try to do something sweet."

Paxton rejoining team in Houston

After missing Friday's start due to a mild bout of pneumonia, Mariners lefty James Paxton was slated to play long toss in Seattle on Sunday afternoon and then fly to Houston to rejoin the team if all goes well.

The Mariners still haven't announced a starter for Wednesday's series finale in Houston, but Servais said he'll have to talk to Paxton and see how his energy level stands as he rebounds from the illness before determining when he slides back into the rotation against the Astros or waits for the weekend series in Arlington.

"There's a small percentage chance [he could pitch Wednesday]," Servais said. "Probably more realistic maybe in Texas. But we don't have a defined starter for that last game in Houston, so we'll have to wait and see. I'd love to be able to start him, but we need him to be close to 100 percent.

"It's not arm strength, it's his body feeling good and feeling good about where he's at physically. When you're sick like that, it takes a lot out of you. We just want to get him back on top of it."

The Mariners are also awaiting word on Felix Hernandez, who was taking Sunday off before resuming throwing Monday in Seattle as he works back from a sore right hamstring. Servais said he could meet up with the Mariners in Houston or Arlington, but it's not certain yet when he'll be able to rejoin the rotation.

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

Seattle Mariners, Kristopher Negron