Nelson Cruz heads to DL with sprained ankle

Seattle calls up Motter from Triple-A to take slugger's place

April 3rd, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Mariners placed designated hitter on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday morning and recalled utility man from Triple-A Tacoma as they began an eight-game road trip without three of their key offensive starters.

Cruz sprained his right ankle when he slipped on the dugout steps at Safeco Field on Saturday after hitting his second home run in the season's first two games. He joins catcher Mike Zunino (strained left oblique) and left fielder Ben Gamel (right oblique) on the 10-day DL.

The move is retroactive to Sunday, so Cruz will be eligible to return on April 11 in Kansas City, which would be the last game on the current eight-game road trip. Manager Scott Servais is "very optimistic" that Cruz will be healthy enough to rejoin the team at that point, though the veteran is not on the road trip, and it's likely he could be held out until the Mariners return home vs. the A's on April 13.

Servais said an MRI showed no ligament damage, just a normal sprain.

"Hopefully, Nelly gets back quicker than most," Servais said. "He's not going to be playing defense, so it's just a matter of feeling good with a bat in his hand and being able to get down the line a little bit. We'll make adjustments. It's part of it. You have to deal with the crazy stuff that happens through the course of a year. We've just had a lot happen here early."

Rookie will fill in for Cruz at designated hitter, but the Mariners have two Interleague games at San Francisco to open the trip and Motter provides some roster versatility.

Losing Cruz is a big blow, however, as the 37-year-old has hit more home runs than any player in the Major Leagues since the start of the 2014 season. He led the American League in RBIs last year.

Motter played 92 games for Seattle last season, posting a .198/.257/.326 line with seven home runs and 26 RBIs. The 28-year-old played every position except catcher and center field in 2017, but he struggled offensively after a hot early start.

But Motter worked over the offseason to use the whole field more rather than just pulling the ball to left, and he put together a strong spring, batting .297 with seven doubles, one triple and two home runs in 64 at-bats. He was the last man cut before Opening Day.

"I did everything I possibly could this spring," said Motter. "I felt great about the way spring ended. It's a 25-man roster, not a 26-man roster, but I felt I showed up and did what I had to do to put a bug in their brain that I was a different guy."

Zunino, Gamel could rejoin team soon

Zunino is progressing well from the strained left oblique that landed him on the DL to start the season, and he was scheduled to catch a simulated outing by on Tuesday for Triple-A Tacoma and possibly get a couple of at-bats.

Zunino is eligible to come off the DL on Friday, which means potentially he could rejoin the team in Minnesota on Saturday and play in the final five games of the road trip.

"Z looks very good," Servais said. "I actually saw him swinging a bat in the cage yesterday. Contrary to some who thought it would be four to six weeks, I feel very confident he has a chance to meet us on the road on this trip."

Gamel, sidelined since March 2, is also progressing well now and could potentially rejoin the club when it returns home after a rehab stint with Tacoma. He's hitting in the simulated game Tuesday, and he will start for the Rainiers in their season opener on Thursday night at Cheney Stadium.

Ramirez was scheduled to throw 30 pitches on Tuesday in the simulated game as he works back from a strained right lat muscle that has sidelined him since mid-February. He's on target to join the rotation later this month, though will get the promotion the first time a fifth starter is needed on April 11.