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August 05, 2013

Rangers' slugger Nelson Cruz hit with 50-game ban, won't appeal

By Jeff Wilson

jwilson@star-telegram.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz was suspended 50 games without pay Monday by Major League Baseball for his part in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing drugs scandal.

Cruz did not appeal his penalty, which was announced at 2 p.m. CDT, and will begin serving the suspension immediately. He will miss the rest of the regular season and forfeit roughly $3.4 million, but would be eligible to return to the Rangers’ active roster should they make the playoffs.

Cruz said on Sunday that he would address the media later in the day at Angel Stadium before the Rangers open a three-game series against the Angels.

Losing Cruz is a huge blow for a team that has struggled to score runs this season and trails Oakland by 2 ½ games in the American League West. A two-time All-Star, including a selection this season, Cruz is the Rangers’ leader in home runs (27) and RBIs (76).

The Rangers are expected to announce later Monday the promotion of his replacement, most likely a right-handed-hitting outfielder, from the minor leagues. They will also pursue a trade the rest of the month, a process that is complicated by players first having to clear waivers before they can be acquired.

The suspension was handed down even though Cruz has never tested positive for PEDs. But the collective-bargaining agreement allows for Commissioner Bud Selig to suspend players based on just cause.

Cruz, 33, faced a difficult decision on whether to appeal or serve the penalty because he is a free agent after the season. His value in the off-season will be higher now that he won’t have a suspension to serve than had he chosen to appeal.

Cruz has also fired his agents. ACES Inc., headed by brothers Sam and Seth Levinson, represent multiple players who have been suspended and also were the agent for Melky Cabrera before he was suspended last year.

On Sunday, after homering in a 4-0 victory that gave Ron Washington more wins than any manager in club history, Cruz said his mind was clear ahead of whatever was going to happen.

“I’m at peace,” he said. “Thanks to God, I think the prayers worked.”

The Cruz punishment, along with bans for 12 other players, brings to a close a months-long investigation by MLB into the Biogenesis of America clinic in Miami.

Among those also suspended, according to reports, was former Rangers slugger Alex Rodriguez, who was banned through the 2014 season. He was the only player who appealed his penalty and is eligible to play for the Yankees until the process is completed.

Former National League MVP Ryan Braun was suspended 65 games July 22.

The Biogenesis investigation turned in favor of MLB when clinic founder Tony Bosch agreed to cooperate. Bosch kept detail records, which were first exposed Jan. 31 in a report by the Miami New Times. He referred to Cruz as “Mohamad.”

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