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08/25/08 11:29 PM ET
Rejuvenated Cruz starts for Rangers
After several false starts, right fielder tears up Minors
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- Outfielder Nelson Cruz rejoined the Rangers on Monday at Kauffman Stadium, and manager Ron Washington made it clear about his playing time. "He'll play every day," Washington said. "Every day he's healthy, he's playing." That might get tricky when David Murphy gets ready to come off the disabled list in September. But right now, the Rangers are going with Marlon Byrd in left, Josh Hamilton in center and Cruz in right. Brandon Boggs will back up at all three spots. The Rangers, who called up Cruz on Monday, are eager to see if there is a difference with him after he tore up the Pacific Coast League this season with some incredible numbers. Cruz, despite missing three weeks with a strained left quadriceps muscle, hit .342 with 37 home runs and 99 RBIs in 103 games for Triple-A Oklahoma. That includes going 5-for-17 in four games since being activated off the disabled list on Thursday. "I've been waiting for this all year," said Cruz, who had three hits on Monday -- a single, a double and a three-run homer. "I'm glad to be back." This will be Cruz's third attempt to establish himself as an everyday player at the Major League level since the Rangers acquired him from the Brewers on July 28, 2006. He has always put up great numbers in the Minor Leagues, but has struggled to establish himself at the Major League level. In 145 Major League games and 442 at-bats, he is hitting .231 with 15 home runs and 56 RBIs. Cruz leads all of baseball with a .693 slugging percentage this year, but his Major League career slugging percentage since he was first called up to the Brewers in 2005 is .385. He came to camp with the Rangers last spring, but was placed on outright waivers and taken off the 40-man roster. Any team could have plucked him but he cleared and went to Triple-A Oklahoma. Apparently, that treatment ranked somewhere between a gentle nudge and slap upside the head for Cruz. "When things like that happen, it's definitely a wakeup call," Cruz said. "I felt I had to go out there and put up numbers to get back to the big leagues. "My mind is much different now, much more positive and much stronger. When you're taken off the roster and go through waivers, it makes you think. You've been working all your life and lost everything. My mind is tougher now. Things are going to be different. I'm focused." The move allows the Rangers to get another look at Cruz, rather than possibly lose him as a Minor League free agent after the season is over. "He's earned the right to play," Washington said. "We haven't given up on him. There's an opportunity here to play, and we're going to give him that opportunity. If anybody had given up on him, he wouldn't be here."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.