Cruz to play right field in Rockies series

Servais wants to keep slugger's bat in lineup during Interleague series

Cruz to play right field in Rockies series

DENVER -- For the third time this year, Nelson Cruz is putting aside his designated hitter helmet and donning an outfielder's glove for the Mariners. With a two-game set in Colorado, manager Scott Servais is sending Cruz into Coors Field's expansive outfield to keep his bat in the lineup during the Interleague series.

But even though Cruz is a career .429 hitter (15-for-35) against the Rockies, with five homers and 10 RBIs, it's not any easy decision to ask him to play the field.

"Any time, whether it's Nelson Cruz or David Ortiz, those kind of guys, big-time DHs in the league, it's challenging," Servais said. "This is probably the most challenging outfield in the league to play in. We need Cruzie's bat in the lineup. We know we're going to need to score runs here, and he's a big part of what we're trying to do offensively."

Cruz was not fazed by the challenge, having played two of three games in D.C. in right field, playing six innings in each game, making four putouts in one game and none in the other.

"What I do on a daily basis is the same whether I'm playing outfield or DH," Cruz said of his pregame approach. "I prepare for playing the game and to be ready for any situation."

He acknowledged the amount of acreage outfielders are expected to cover at Coors Field -- "You got to run for the ball," he said -- and noted the higher right field wall than the last time he'd played at Coors Field. But he was as eager to stay in the lineup in Colorado as his manager was to have his bat cleaning up in the heart of the order.

"It's a good ballpark to hit in," Cruz said. "I don't think anyone doesn't like this stadium."

Revolving door

Servais offered an abbreviated report on the multi-volume medical report covering the 10 Mariners on the disabled list.

• On Felix Hernandez (out since April 26 with right shoulder inflammation): "He will throw a bullpen [Tuesday]," Servais said. "He's progressing along the right direction."

• On Hisashi Iwakuma (out since May 10 with right shoulder inflammation): "He is not quite as quick to move along as Felix at this point. He's working on a few things. He may get on the slope here the next couple days. His program isn't as quick."

• On Mitch Haniger (out since April 26 with right oblique strain): "He has not hit the last couple days. Trying to ease his way back into it. He's just not recovering quick enough when he does get into it. Still progressing along. Slower, maybe behind schedule a little from what we'd hoped for. He had a setback about a week ago, and he's not quite ready to go out for a rehab yet."

• On Drew Smyly (on 60-day DL with left flexor strain): "He is playing catch. He's not gotten off the mound yet."

Rotation shuffle

Servais acknowledged the challenge of using an "unprecedented" 12 starting pitchers over the first two months of the season, and juggling a total of 43 players on the 25-man roster so far this year.

"You're trying to create a team camaraderie and environment, the closeness, and it's hard," Servais said. "The number of meetings I've had sending players out, back to Tacoma, or welcoming guys in, a lot of guys I've never seen pitch before, I have no idea what they even look like until they walk into my office. It has been a challenge, no doubt."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver, who covered the Mariners on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.