NYY@SEA: Morales leaves in sixth with back injury

SEATTLE -- First baseman Kendrys Morales was scratched from the Mariners' starting lineup about 90 minutes before Tuesday night's game with the Astros due to lower back soreness.

With Justin Smoak already on the disabled list and Michael Morse limited to designated hitter duties with a strained right quadriceps, Alex Liddi took Morales' spot at first base and hit ninth.

Morales was removed from Saturday's game against the Yankees due to lower back stiffness, but was back in the lineup at designated hitter Sunday and then played first base Monday.

The 29-year-old is leading the Mariners with a .292 batting average and 35 RBIs, and is tied for third on the club with eight home runs in 63 games.

Smoak has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 30 with a strained oblique. He took batting practice for the first time Tuesday, and manager Eric Wedge said Smoak is close to being sent out on a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-Tacoma.

"He's going to take BP again tomorrow," Wedge said. "If that goes well, we'd like to get him out hopefully as soon as Thursday."

Mariners name 'Tribute for Heroes' nominees

People Magazine and MLB's Tribute for Heroes

SEATTLE -- Two Army veterans and an active duty Marine who is helping veterans have been selected as the Mariners' nominees for Major League Baseball's "Tribute for Heroes" campaign.

The program, which is co-sponsored by People Magazine, recognizes 90 veterans and military service members from around the country, three per Major League team. Fans can visit TributeForHeroes.com to read and vote for the most inspirational stories prior to the June 30 deadline.

One winner from each team will be recognized before the 2013 Major League All-Star Game on July 16 on FOX.

The Mariners nominees are: Robert Dyer, an active duty Marine Corps aviation officer stationed at the U.S. Naval Academy; Danny Gabriel, an Army veteran from Lacey, Wash.; and Phil Kiver, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran from Cheney, Wash.

Dyer, a highly decorated combat veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is also an entrepreneur. He and his Special Ops Marines came up with the idea for a nutrition product called RuckPack, which offers vitamins and energy without caffeine. The company Dyer and fellow Marines founded hires veterans and active duty military, and channels profits back to military charities. RuckPack has donated more than $15,000 to organizations such as the Navy SEAL Foundation and Wounded Warriors.

Gabriel left a post-military career in civil engineering to pursue a social work degree in order to help wounded veterans combat mental and emotional suffering. In 2006, he founded Wounded Veterans Fishing Program, which uses the sport to boost self-esteem, morale, self-confidence and awareness. Through donations and Gabriel's personal finances, the organization provides 20 fishing trips a year.

Kiver is an Eastern Washington University graduate who served in the Washington Army National Guard. He volunteered with the Army and served in Iraq as a combat photographer. After repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan as a soldier and contractor, Kiver has written several books about his experiences and volunteers at his local Veterans Administration Hospital in support of suicide prevention and awareness.

The "Tribute for Heroes" campaign supports Welcome Back Veterans (welcomebackveterans.org, powered by MLB.com), an initiative of Major League Baseball and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, which addresses the needs of veterans after they return from service. Major League Baseball has committed more than $23 million for grants to hospitals and clinics that provide post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury treatment to veterans and their families.