Cruz first Mariner to win Player of Month since Ichiro

CruzHRIt didn’t take Nelson Cruz long to make his presence felt on the Mariners as the club’s new right fielder and designated hitter earned American League Player of the Month honors for his outstanding April on Monday.

It was the first Player of the Month award for Cruz in his 11-year career and he’s the first Seattle player to earn the honor since Ichiro Suzuki in August of 2004.

“It’d be hard pressed to see anybody’s numbers stack up against his for the first month,” said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon. “It was pretty impressive.”

Cruz hit .322 in 22 games in the month and had the top slugging percentage in the AL at .724, the top OPS at 1.096 and most extra bats hits with 14, while tying with Boston’s Hanley Ramirez for the most home runs (10) and RBIs (22). In addition to his 10 homers, he also hit three doubles and a triple, while Ramirez had no other extra-base hits and batted .293 in 21 games.

Cruz led the Majors in home runs with 40 last year for the Orioles, then signed a four-year, $57 million deal to play with the Mariners this winter. He hit six home runs in Seattle’s first nine games of the season and earned AL Player of the Week honors that first week.

The three-time All-Star joined Ken Griffey, Jr. (July 1993) and Jay Buhner (May 1996) as the only Mariners to hit eight home runs in an eight-game stretch during a single season. His 10 home runs in the opening month are the third-most in franchise history behind only Griffey, who hit 13 in 1997 and 11 in 1998.

He was the first Mariners player with at least 20 RBIs in the opening month of a season since Raul Ibañez recorded 20 in 2008 and Bret Boone had 21 in 2003.

Cruz has continued his hot hitting into May. On the season, he is hitting .343 with 17 runs, 13 home runs, 25 RBIs, a .387 on-base percentage, a .788 slugging percentage and a 1.175 OPS in 25 games heading into Monday’s series opener with the Angels.

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