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Cruz moves to pinch-hitting role in Atlanta

MLB.com

ATLANTA -- As the Mariners start a three-game Interleague series with the Braves, they will be without Nelson Cruz in the everyday lineup.

Since the National League doesn't play with a designated hitter, it has forced Seattle to shift some players around, sending Cruz to pinch-hitting duties. It is still possible that he could play right field, but Mariners manager Scott Servais said that it is unlikely to happen. He wants to be smart with Cruz's playing time as the team pushes toward a playoff berth.

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ATLANTA -- As the Mariners start a three-game Interleague series with the Braves, they will be without Nelson Cruz in the everyday lineup.

Since the National League doesn't play with a designated hitter, it has forced Seattle to shift some players around, sending Cruz to pinch-hitting duties. It is still possible that he could play right field, but Mariners manager Scott Servais said that it is unlikely to happen. He wants to be smart with Cruz's playing time as the team pushes toward a playoff berth.

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"Looking over the next 37 games, we need him," Servais said. Hopefully, he makes an impact in two or three of these games by getting a big hit. We can put him in a good spot late in the game and he can contribute that way."

Cruz is batting .294 with 31 home runs and 100 RBIs in 119 games this season. He also has a 12-game hitting streak that is the second longest in the league. During the streak, he is hitting .422 with seven homers and 13 runs scored.

Cruz said he understands the decision and will focus on using his offensive prowess in key situations.

"I will pinch-hit for the pitcher and in other situations," Cruz said. "It just depends [on when I am needed]."

Key pitchers progressing from injury

The Mariners have dealt with several injuries to their pitching staff. Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and reliever David Phelps are just a few that are working their way back from the disabled list.

Phelps seems to be the closest to returning. He was scheduled to throw a 20-pitch simulated game on Monday, and Servais said that he could be activated Wednesday or later in the week if everything turned out well from the session.

Servais said Hernandez and Paxton are scheduled to play catch in the next couple of days. Hernandez has battled right shoulder bursitis as Paxton has dealt with a right elbow impingement.

"Paxton continues to get some strength back in that muscle that he tweaked. "Also, Hisashi Iwakuma is throwing a bullpen today… .The pitching is a big part of it and once they start playing catch, you have to build from there."

Servais, also mentioned that Iwakuma, who has been dealing with a right shoulder injury, is on the mend as well.

Illusionist visits Mariners in Atlanta

The Mariners got treated to an illusionist show in the clubhouse on Monday. The team participated in several games that involved card tricks, disappearing acts, and guessing the right songs. It was a fun event to help the players relax during the grind of the season.

"That was a fun experience to see it happen so closely and to happen so quickly," Mariners outfielder Leonys Martin said. "It was good and he has good talent."

Martin got called up during one of the illusionist's acts. He said that it was cool to be a part of the spectacle. He also said that the song guessing was one of his favorite parts.

"He asked someone to think of one song and he found out the song without any guesses," Martin said. "It was impressive."

Jaylon Thompson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta and covered the Mariners on Monday.

Seattle Mariners