"Was told he's OK," McClendon said after Seattle held on for a 3-2 win over the Indians at Progressive Field. "Had some tightness in his back. Did some treatments on it, and he feels much better, loosened up."
McClendon explained Cruz had felt some discomfort during batting practice, but had decided he could play through it. The slugger grounded out in the first inning and struck out in the third before looking uncomfortable during what became his final at-bat of the night.
After fouling off a 2-2 offering from Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber, Cruz shuffled out of the batter's box while grimacing. McClendon visited Cruz at the plate and removed him almost immediately, and the 34-year-old followed trainers into the clubhouse.
"A little bit too fidgety for me in that at-bat," McClendon said. "I didn't like it, and I just pulled the trigger and got him out of there."
He was replaced by Dustin Ackley, who inherited a 2-2 count and worked a walk. Ackley stayed in the game as the left fielder, while Seth Smith moved to right field.
Cruz, who was signed to a four-year deal in the offseason, has a .326 average and leads the American League with 18 home runs, and is one of the bright spots on what has otherwise been a struggling Mariners offense. The right fielder had cooled considerably, though. He hasn't hit a home run since May 27 and is batting .267 with one extra-base hit in 12 games since.
Seattle has scored three runs or fewer in 13 consecutive games, a franchise record, and can ill afford losing their most productive offensive weapon. But McClendon remained optimistic, saying Cruz hasn't had back issues this season before Tuesday.
"There's nothing too serious," McClendon said. "I didn't want to take a chance."
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.