Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz is making a huge impact in his first year with the team to the tune of a league-leading 21 home runs through June 4.
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz is making a huge impact in his first year with the team.
Cruz made a statement against his former team, the Texas Rangers, on June 3 to the tune of his league-leading 21st home run, per MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli:
"Welcome back, Nelson Cruz.
"The Orioles' slugger, who dominated pregame headlines in making his retun to Arlington, showed several hours later what's really stolen the show this season: that majestic swing.
"The major league leader in home runs and RBIs, and reigning American League Player of the Week, Cruz gave Ranger fans -- who greeted him with a thunderous ovation -- a front-row seat to what they missed out on when he opted for free agency this winter.
"Cruz ambushed Rangers righty Shawn Tolleson's first-pitch fastball for a three-run homer -- his 21st of the season -- to seal a sixth-run eighth inning that granted the Orioles (29-27) a commanding 8-3 series-opening win. But Cruz, who exited Sunday's game after taking a pitch off his left hand, almost didn't get a chance to hit.
"'I was cramping since the fourth inning,' said Cruz, who had to convince manager Buck Showalter he was OK from the on-deck circle. 'It was bad. I wanted to take my last at-bat and hopefully get someting going.'
"After all, the game was tied 2-2, going into that inning and Cruz -- who has an incredible 55 RBIs on the season -- helped ensure that the Rangers organization which spent with which he spent the previous eight seasons would come out on the losing end.
"'That was a camp trot,' Showalter said of Cruz's slow spin around the bases. 'I thought tonight he was real calm. He was real confident in terms of knowing what he's got to do. He didn't let them take him out of the strike zone.'"
Cruz told The Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina about he warm reception he received from Rangers fans.
"It was pretty good. It was nice. They were always behind me when I was here.
"It was kind of weird. It was kind of like one of my first days in the big leagues. Everything was going fast, but after the first at-bat, you try to stay in the moment and stay focused."
Because of Cruz's torrid pace, he displaced the Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz as the leading vote-getter among designated hitters in the American League on June 2, per a separate update from Ghiroli.
"Last week was a good one for Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz, who continued his torrid first half by hitting his major league-leading 20th homer and reaching 52 RBIs, which also led the majors entering play on Monday.
"Cruz, who was hit on the left hand with a pitch on Sunday, moved ahead of Boston's David Ortiz for the top spot among designated hitters in American League All-Star voting after posting a stretch in which he drove in five of his team's nine runs.
"Cruz set a team record for RBIs through May, passing Chris Davis' total of 50 from last season, and he entered Monday having hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games, Cruz has received a total of 888,855 votes compared to Ortiz's 766,631."
Cruz's teammates, Matt Wieters, had 842,775 votes as of June 2, which places him ahead of the New York Yankees' Brian McCann, who had 605,941 votes for the catcher position in the American League. Shortstop J.J. Hardy was still in third among American League shortstops on that day, Ghiroli notes.
It has certainly been a storybook, bounce-back season for Cruz, who was suspended 50 games by Major League Baseball in Aug. 2013 for his alleged involvement in the PED scandal with Biogenesis of America.
With this, Cruz is thankful for getting a shot at redemption with the Orioles. He is also thankful to the Rangers for making him the player he is today, per MLB.com's Grace Raynor.
"I cannot be more thankful for the Rangers. They gave me a chance to be a major league player. The owner, the coaches -- they taught me how to play baseball and how to be a professional. I cannot be more thankful."