(AP) Cruz reinstated and back in Rangers lineup
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Sports Writer
Nelson Cruz fit right back in with the Texas Rangers after completing his 50-game drug suspension.
The All-Star slugger was reinstated from the restricted list Monday by the Rangers, who immediately put him in their lineup. Cruz batted sixth as the designated hitter for the AL wild-card tiebreaker game against Tampa Bay. (Note: Cruz hit a hard line drive in his first at bat, but it was caught.)
Cruz got a warm ovation from Rangers fans when he was introduced before the game, and again when he came to bat for the first time in the second inning. After swinging late on a couple of fastballs from David Price, Cruz lined out to first base.
It was the first major league game for Cruz since Aug. 4. That was the day before his suspension stemming from Major League Baseball’s investigation of the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic, accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Cruz was among 14 players disciplined by MLB this year in the Biogenesis case. Only Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez appealed his suspension.
The return of Cruz came eight weeks to the day he was suspended. He has acknowledged publicly that he made “an error in judgment” in the wake of a gastrointestinal infection that wasn’t properly diagnosed over a few months before he reported to spring training in 2012. Cruz lost 40 pounds during that time. He has never offered more specifics.
After serving his penalty, Cruz is ready to move forward and focus on the field.
Cruz seemed at ease during batting practice, when he hit a few balls over the walls in a session he described as being “OK. It wasn’t like great.” He was planning to take more cuts in the indoor batting cage.
Rays manager Joe Maddon expressed no issue with Cruz being eligible.
Texas designated outfielder Joey Butler for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
The Rangers won their last seven scheduled games of the regular season and needed every one of those victories to force the first wild-card tiebreaker in the majors since 2007.
A 163rd regular-season game provided a chance for the return of Cruz. Before flying to Texas on Saturday night, he had been playing games against mostly minor leaguers and prospects in the Arizona Instructional League.
Cruz finished 9 for 27 with five doubles, a homer and nine RBIs in eight games in Arizona.
Once Cruz told manager Ron Washington that he felt good and was loose, the slugger was back in the lineup.
General manager Jon Daniels said Cruz kept himself ready to play “as good as you can.” Daniels said the at-bats got batter during that time and that Cruz was swinging the bat well.
The Rangers were 29-21 without Cruz, who hit .269 with 27 homers and 76 RBIs in 108 games before his suspension.
Washington opted to have Cruz as the designated hitter for his return rather than put him in the outfield. The Rangers stuck with hot-hitting Craig Gentry in left, Leonys Martin in center and Alex Rios in right. Rios was acquired from the Chicago White Sox four days after Cruz was suspended.