© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

05/08/08 11:30 PM ET

Cruz gets chance to coach for Mariners

Veteran baseball man enjoyed Major League opportunity

SEATTLE -- Tommy Cruz returned to his regular seat behind home plate at Safeco Field Thursday night, his first big league coaching experience behind him.

With third-base coach Sammy Perlozzo sidelined because of an injured left knee, first-base coach Eddie Rodriguez moving to third and bench coach Jim Riggleman returning to the dugout, Cruz coached first base for the first time in Wednesday night's game against the Rangers.

On his first day as a Major League coach, wearing a batting helmet as required, the effervescent uncle of former Mariners outfielder Jose Cruz Jr. greeted only seven baserunners during the shutout loss to Texas.

He wanted a lot more company than that.

"My job is to get them past first base," Cruz said.

"I have to make sure they know the sign, how many outs there are, how quick the pitcher is to home plate -- things like that."

Being in the Major Leagues this season, let alone standing in the coach's box, is something the 51-year-old Cruz, who had two brief big league stints with the Cardinals (1973) and White Sox ('77), never expected.

He was supposed to be a coach with the Class A High Desert (California League) team, but the Mariners needed a left-hander to throw batting practice during the regular season and decided Cruz would be that guy.

Cruz isn't officially on manager John McLaren's coaching staff, so is not allowed to be in uniform during the games without permission from MLB. He usually sits in the stands operating the radar gun, which he did again Thursday night, when Riggleman returned to first base and Perlozzo, who had knee surgery on Tuesday, served as the bench coach.

Even one game is better than none for Cruz.

"This is my first time coaching in the Major Leagues," he proudly proclaimed, "and I want to thank the Mariners for this opportunity."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.