Cruz feels 'blessed' for fans' All-Star support
Mariners slugger reclaims DH lead heading into final days of voting
SAN DIEGO -- Mariners slugger Nelson Cruz is down to the final two days of All-Star Game voting and says he appreciates the fan support, no matter how things turn out in his race to the wire with Kendrys Morales of the Royals for the starting designated hitter spot on the American League team.
Cruz regained about a 205,000 vote lead in the latest results released Monday by Major League Baseball, with balloting set to end at 8:59 p.m. PT on Thursday. Fans can vote on the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot.
"Even if I get less votes, I'm always going to thank the fans because they take time on a daily basis to go there and vote," Cruz said. "You should recognize that, even if you don't get that many votes or don't get elected by the fans. You always have to appreciate everything they do. It's a lot of media and tweets and stuff going on. I definitely feel blessed. Eight million votes is definitely special."
Cruz did say he's already been invited to participate in this year's Gillette Home Run Derby presented by Head & Shoulders, but declined. He did the same last year while with the Orioles.
"I'd love to do it, but at the same time, I have to think about my teammates and my team," he said. "If I go there, it can wear me out for two or three days, and it's not fair for my team. It's just the way it is."
Cruz, who turns 35 on Wednesday, competed in the Home Run Derby in 2009 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, the same year he made his first All-Star Game with the Rangers, finishing second to Prince Fielder in the final round. But he's turned down all subsequent invitations.
"It is [taxing]," he said. "I was there once, and especially the last round is tough. I don't blame the guys that want to go because I know it's really fun and the fans deserve to see the show. But I think the team is more important than anything else."
Some hitters have felt the Derby messes up their swing, but for Cruz, it's more of a health concern.
"I don't think my swing is that good to be more messed up than what it is," he said with a laugh. "That's not one of my concerns. Even in BP you don't try to hit homers on your first swing. You try to slowly progress and hit line drives and try to hit the ball to the gap and ground balls and whatever you're working on. My approach, the last round maybe try to go for the fence. But in that situation, it's first round, let it go."
• Manager Lloyd McClendon said left-hander James Paxton has played catch up to about 75 feet in the last day or two in Seattle and will continue progressing from there, but has a long road ahead as he returns from his strained finger tendon.
"This is going to be a slow process with Paxton," McClendon said. "We might as well concentrate on other things. Paxton will be out for a while."
• McClendon said Felix Hernandez had no after effects from his cramping episode in Sunday's start when 90-degree heat sapped him in a 96-pitch outing in Anaheim, where he was pulled after six innings with a 1-0 lead and just one hit.
"The heat got to him, as it did everybody else, including me," McClendon said. "He was just out of gas. He started to cramp up a little, but he's fine."