Cruz to see more time at DH down stretch

Cruz to see more time at DH down stretch

BOSTON -- Nelson Cruz has played the majority of his games in right field this season, but Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon said Friday the slugger will see more action at designated hitter in the final seven weeks of the season to keep him as healthy as possible.

Cruz missed Wednesday's game after dealing with neck spasms and coming out of Tuesday's contest in the seventh inning, but he was back at DH for Friday's 15-1 series-opening loss to the Red Sox.

The 35-year-old Cruz has started 67 games in right field this year, while Friday was his 46th start at designated hitter.

"His neck is fine," McClendon said. "We're just going to balance it with the DH. As much as I possibly can, I'll DH him and he'll play some right field as well. I've tried to balance it all year."

McClendon indicated Cruz likely would be in right field for Saturday's game, since the Mariners will face a lefty in Wade Miley. If Cruz plays right field, the Mariners can add an extra right-handed bat to their lineup by playing Jesus Montero and Mark Trumbo at first base and DH.

An interesting thing with Cruz is he's hit far better when playing the field this year. He's put up a .357/.418/.709 line with 27 homers in his 67 games in right, compared to .276/.347/.460 with seven homers in his first 45 games at DH.

• Lefty reliever Charlie Furbush, on the DL since July 9 with left biceps tendinitis, will throw another bullpen session Saturday at Fenway Park before a determination is made on whether he's ready to begin a Minor League rehab stint.

• Catcher Mike Zunino has been a workhorse this year, totaling the third-most innings of any catcher in the Majors. But backup Jesus Sucre made his second straight start in place of the 24-year-old on Friday. Zunino was 0-for-25 in the first nine games of August, and McClendon said he preferred the offensive matchup in Saturday and Sunday games against Red Sox left-handers rather than Friday starter Joe Kelly, a right-hander against whom Zunino is 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in prior meetings.

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB, read his Mariners Musings blog, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.