ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Nelson Cruz felt weird being back in Texas and on the other side.
Still, there was no animosity for the Baltimore Orioles slugger toward his former team.
“All good feelings and good memories, that’s what I can remember,” Cruz said Tuesday before his first game against the Rangers. “I cannot be more thankful to the Rangers, they gave me the chance to be a major league player.”
Cruz played the past eight seasons in Texas, and was the 2011 AL championship series MVP on the way to the Rangers’ second consecutive World Series. He went into Tuesday night’s game, two days after getting hit on his left hand by a pitch, hitting .314 and leading the majors with 20 homers and 52 RBIs in 54 games.
Heading into free agency last year, Cruz missed the final 50 regular-season games for the Rangers after for violating baseball’s drug agreement. He returned for their wild-card tiebreaker game Texas lost to Tampa Bay to miss the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Cruz turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer in November from Texas, who likely who have used him primarily as a designated hitter if he had accepted.
He went through the entire offseason before eventually signing an $8 million, one-year deal with the Orioles early in spring training.
“It was really frustrating,” he said. “I’m happy with the decision I made, and happy where I am. I don’t regret anything that I did. I think it was the right call.”
As for his bruised hand, Cruz got treatment on Monday’s off day and felt fine swinging and gripping the bat before the game. He was batting third and playing left field.
“He’s got a real pure heart, he’s real sincere,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He brings a lot of personality and is not afraid to be himself, and that’s been good. And he’s swung the bat pretty well.”
For the first time, the Rangers had to figure out how to shut down the slugger who before this season had played all but eight of his 804 major league games for them. Texas acquired Cruz from Milwaukee in 2006, when he was part of the deal that sent Carlos Lee to the Rangers.
“When he’s hot, he’s hot. I think we’ve all seen that,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “There isn’t anything Nelson is doing that surprises me. Nothing at all. … We’ve just got to make certain that we keep the ball out of his swing path.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)