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Birthday boy Cruz defies age as he turns 38

MLB.com

SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz turned 38 on Sunday.

Earlier this week, 15-year Major Leaguer Jayson Werth retired -- giving up on a shot at a return via the Mariners' farm system -- at the age of 39.

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SEATTLE -- Nelson Cruz turned 38 on Sunday.

Earlier this week, 15-year Major Leaguer Jayson Werth retired -- giving up on a shot at a return via the Mariners' farm system -- at the age of 39.

View Full Game Coverage

Cruz has not faced the slowdown typical of a mid- to late-30s outfielder. He's been an All-Star in four of five seasons since turning 33, and is making a case again this year with a .276/.360/.568 slash line and 21 homers entering Sunday's game.

"Most guys start dipping a little bit when they get to the 35-year-old range," said manger Scott Servais. "He really hasn't done that."

Servais said the move to full-time designated hitter is part of what's allowed Cruz to sustain the success.

Cruz went from playing in the outfield for 48 games in 2016 to just five in 2017. He hasn't played defense yet this season. Though Servais expects Cruz to lobby for playing time in the outfield when his team arrives in Coors Field next week, the manager said that probably won't happen.

"When I first got here [in 2016], he was not all fired up to just become an everyday DH," Servais said. "I think he's seen the value of that in being able to stay on the field to put up his numbers and help the team."

Reports recently surfaced indicating that Cruz will be looking for a multi-year deal as a free agent this winter, and he might be able to find one, given how he's been hitting lately.

"It's different when he hits it, it really is," Servais said. "Some of the balls he hits through the infield, I don't think people realize how hard the ball is going. Infielders have no time to react. It's pretty special."

Cruz's average exit velocity of 94.5 mph ranks third in the Majors, behind only Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo. Cruz has kept up that average on 205 batted-ball events, which is 21 more than Judge, and 42 more than Gallo.

Erasmo progressing

Injured right-hander Erasmo Ramirez threw 20 fastballs during a bullpen session Sunday morning. He said the next step would be a 25-pitch session Wednesday, incorporating both fastballs and changeups.

"[This is] the best feeling I've felt, maybe, in the last two months," Ramirez said. "I went so much time without seeing a catcher. [I'm] feeling good. That's what matters right now."

Ramirez was slated to begin the season as Seattle's No. 4 starter, but only threw 9 2/3 innings over two starts in early April -- taking the loss both times -- before landing on the DL with a right shoulder strain.

Meanwhile, injured reliever Dan Altavilla has not begun throwing.

David Gottlieb is a reporter for MLB.com.

Seattle Mariners