Mariners' lineup could be getting more weapons against A's (Apr 12, 2018)

April 12, 2018

You can bet Nelson Cruz can't wait to get back into the Seattle Mariners' lineup.

Especially after watching what Dee Gordon, Jean Segura and Robinson Cano have done at the top of the batting order.

Cruz, the designated hitter and cleanup batter who led the American League in RBIs last year, has been on the disabled list since April 1 with a sprained right ankle he injured while slipping on the bottom step of the dugout after hitting a home run.

Cruz is eligible to return from the DL when the Mariners open a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics on Friday night at Safeco Field, although he has not yet been cleared by the team's medical staff.

The Mariners expect to have outfielder Ben Gamel, out since late in spring training with a strained right oblique, back Friday and hope Cruz and catcher Mike Zunino (strained left oblique) return this weekend. Zunino was hurt taking batting practice a day before the season opener.

Mariners manager Scott Servais told that Cruz and Zunino are "a tick behind" Gamel in the recovery process.

Cano entered Thursday's play leading the majors with a .406 batting average, with Gordon and Segura both hitting .333. The trio has combined to hit .353 through the first 10 games, with the rest of the lineup -- without Cruz, Gamel and Zunino -- batting .197.

Gordon, a Gold Glove second baseman acquired in the offseason and converted into a center fielder, has taken over the leadoff spot from Segura. Gordon has a hit in all 10 games and is second in the majors with five stolen bases.

Segura has seamlessly slid into the No. 2 slot in the lineup.

"It's a good spot for him," Servais told reporters earlier this week. "I think the longer that he and Dee work together as a 1-2 punch, he'll get more comfortable getting an idea of when Dee is going to run and when he's not.

"But Jean makes so much contact and he doesn't strike out a ton, so there's always action. And with Dee on the bases, it's fun to watch."

The task of stopping the top third of the Mariners' lineup will fall to A's right-hander Andrew Triggs (1-0, 2.53 ERA) on Friday.

Triggs is off to another hot start after beginning last season with 17 2/3 scoreless innings, a franchise record for a starting pitcher on the Opening Day roster.

He allowed two runs and four hits in 5 2/3 innings of his last start, a 7-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. He gave up one run in five innings in his first start against the Texas Rangers but didn't get a decision.

"The confidence that he gained last year for a guy who has never been a starter before, basically his entire career, I think lent to the fact that he knows he can do that," A's manager Bob Melvin said after Triggs' last start.

"He has a funky arm angle, and if you haven't seen him much, he's kind of an acquired taste. He doesn't have to just throw the sinker, he has a good breaking ball to keep you off balance, too."

Triggs is 0-1 with a 8.53 ERA in three career appearances against the Mariners, including two starts.

The Mariners will counter with right-hander Mike Leake (2-0, 3.00), who has been the team's most consistent starter thus far. Leake is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in three career starts against the A's.