Nelson Cruz’s 50-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs has come to an end, and he will be on the Texas Rangers’ active roster tonight for their tie-breaking game against Tampa Bay to determine the second American League wild-card team.
But only manager Ron Washington knows for sure if the outfielder will be in the lineup as the Rangers try to push themselves into the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
The prevailing thought is that Cruz will be in the lineup as the designated hitter even though he hasn’t played a major-league game since Aug. 4, the day before he was suspended for his part in the Biogensis of America scandal.
The ban ended Sunday after a 6-2 victory that extended the Rangers’ regular season to a Game 163, and Cruz is hopeful that he will get the chance to return to a lineup that has lacked power in his absence.
“I want to play,” Cruz said. “I want to be a part of this team and win a championship. That’s what it’s all about. I’m going to be there. Whatever they need me for, I’ll be there.”
The Rangers went 29-21 without Cruz, who swatted 27 homers and drove in 76 runs before he started serving his suspension, but hit only 44 homers. He has been working out the past few weeks at the Rangers’ complex in Surprise, Ariz., and playing in advanced Instructional League games that feature some of the top prospects in the game.
He said that he has a good feel for fastballs but that the breaking pitches he was facing weren’t major-league quality. He went 9 for 27 with five doubles, one homer and nine RBIs in eight games. He started 1 for 10.
“I’ve been working every day in Arizona to make sure I’m ready for this moment,” he said.
General manager Jon Daniels said that Cruz’s at-bats steadily got better, but that his attitude and work ethic never lagged. He worked out in left field and right field, but he would seem to be a better fit at designated hitter tonight.
One way Cruz could be out of the lineup is if Washington wants Geovany Soto, who went 2 for 3 with a homer and two RBIs on Sunday, to catch rookie left-hander Martin Perez and have A.J. Pierzynski serve as the designated hitter.
“We’ll deal with that tomorrow,” Washington said.
Cruz said that he has been well-received by his teammates, who want to him back on the club and in the lineup. Cruz has said it has been a process breaking down any barriers that might have existed after the suspension, though Rangers players said from the first day of the ban that they supported him and would welcome him back.
“He served his time, he did what he’s supposed to do, and he apologized to the team. What else do you want?” Pierzynski said. “He did what he did and he served his suspension and it stinks for him, but Nelson is a great guy, been a great teammate all year through all this, and he’s handled it the right way.”
Said shortstop Elvis Andrus: “I hope he plays tomorrow. That’s the bat we need right now, so it’d be really good if he came back.”
-- Jeff Wilson