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Cruz has MRI on sprained right ankle

Mariners awaiting word on health of star slugger
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz had an MRI test on his sprained right ankle on Sunday morning, and the Mariners are still awaiting word on the severity of the injury before deciding whether he'll need to go on the 10-day disabled list.

Cruz suffered the injury when slipping on the dugout steps after hitting a two-run homer in the sixth inning of Saturday's 6-5 loss to the Indians. With two Interleague games in San Francisco to open the upcoming eight-game road trip, the big slugger could have a couple extra days to recover because no designated hitter is needed in those contests.

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SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz had an MRI test on his sprained right ankle on Sunday morning, and the Mariners are still awaiting word on the severity of the injury before deciding whether he'll need to go on the 10-day disabled list.

Cruz suffered the injury when slipping on the dugout steps after hitting a two-run homer in the sixth inning of Saturday's 6-5 loss to the Indians. With two Interleague games in San Francisco to open the upcoming eight-game road trip, the big slugger could have a couple extra days to recover because no designated hitter is needed in those contests.

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But if his injury figures to keep him out much longer than that, the Mariners likely will put him on the DL rather than go short-handed through the remainder of their trip to Minnesota and Kansas City.

"I joked with him [Saturday] and said, 'You really didn't want to play the outfield, did you?' And he got mad at me," manager Scott Servais said prior to Sunday's series finale with Cleveland. "But going into those spots, we'll have to wait and see how he is coming out of it.

"If it's going to be longer than 3-4 days, then we're going to have to make a roster decision. But right now, we're keeping our fingers crossed that he can bounce back."

Cruz's home runs against Indians standouts Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco made him the first player in Major League history to homer in each of his first two games in four different seasons, having done so with Texas in 2010 and '11 and Baltimore in 2014 as well.

Video: CLE@SEA: Cruz slams a two-run dinger to left-center

With Cruz sidelined, Daniel Vogelbach got the start at designated hitter in the series finale and Mitch Haniger moved into the cleanup spot to keep a right-handed bat between lefties Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager.

Gamel to open season with Tacoma

Servais said left fielder Ben Gamel is recovering from his strained right oblique quickly enough that he's expected to begin the season with Triple-A Tacoma when the Rainiers open Thursday night against Sacramento at Cheney Stadium.

Gamel injured his oblique on March 2, but has been taking batting practice with the Mariners and now will take part in some simulated games with Tacoma early next week before being cleared to start his Minor League rehab assignment.

Servais said it's too early to ponder what might happen with the Mariners roster and Ichiro Suzuki's situation when Gamel is ready, but he's encouraged by the quicker-than-anticipated recovery.

"That is a good boost for us," Servais said. "Ben has been feeling really good. The next step is just get some game action and start tracking balls and get some at-bats."

Zunino also on the mend

Catcher Mike Zunino will not be with the Mariners as they depart on their road trip Monday -- and that is actually good news at this point.

Zunino, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list Friday with a strained oblique, is feeling good enough that there's a chance he could be cleared to hit in the simulated games with Tacoma early next week along with Gamel.

Video: Must C Combo: Zunino connect for three homers

Servais said Zunino is already feeling much improved after his side tightened up during batting practice in Wednesday's workout. If that trend continues, he could work out with the Rainiers and possibly be allowed to hit before rejoining the Mariners.

Zunino is eligible to return from the DL on Friday, which would make him available for the final two games in Minnesota and three in Kansas City on the road trip if he's actually able to return that quickly.

• Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez, who is recovering from a strained right lat, will also stay in Seattle and could throw in one of the simulated games, which are being held to give Tacoma's pitchers a chance to throw during the break before all Minor League full-season affiliates get underway Thursday.

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

Seattle Mariners, Nelson Cruz