3/21/2013 10:10 P.M. ET
After Classic triumph, Cruz focused on Rangers
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre was parading through the clubhouse with a gold medal around his neck and a Dominican Republic cap on his head. The word "domination" was taped on it.
Beltre also taped two messages on Elvis Andrus' locker -- "Good job winning one game" and "We have a consolation prize for you" -- while television cameras and reporters followed him around.
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Then Derek Holland yelled out, "Don't interview him, he didn't even play."
The gold medal belonged to outfielder Nelson Cruz. The Rangers' right fielder was the one who returned triumphant from the World Baseball Classic after the Dominican Republic defeated Puerto Rico, 3-0, in the championship game on Tuesday. The Dominican Republic won eight straight games to claim their first Classic title.
"It was good ... it was exciting," Cruz said. "We did what we expected to do. The goal was accomplished. It's not just the players, the whole country was watching. It was crazy, I know all the televisions were [tuned in to] baseball. I talked to a few friends in the Dominican ... it was crazy."
Cruz was an integral part of the Dominican team, hitting .303 (10-for-33) with three runs scored and six RBIs over eight games. He was named to the 2013 MetLife All-World Baseball Classic Team.
"You learn to enjoy the game as much as you can," Cruz said. "That's what I was doing the whole time, just having fun. Don't take anything for granted or think nobody can beat us."
Two days after the victory, Cruz and teammate Leury Garcia were still enjoying the triumphant thrill of the tournament. Cruz especially enjoyed laying it on Andrus, who played for Venezuela, which was knocked out in the first round.
Now it's time to go back to his day job. Cruz was back in camp on Thursday and in the lineup, batting fifth and playing right field against the Angels. The Rangers have one week left before leaving Arizona, they are 10 days away from Opening Day against the Astros and Cruz remains a crucial part of their lineup.
"I could play now," Cruz said. "If the season started right now, I would be ready to play. I have been playing at a high level for a while. No doubt this is going to help me, especially the first part of the season."
Cruz played in the World Baseball Classic in 2009 and also started the season well for the Rangers, hitting .295 with 15 home runs and 39 RBIs through his first 50 games. He ended up on the American League All-Star team for the only time in his career.
The Rangers would like to see Cruz do similar damage through the first 50 games of this season. They just want him around for the first 50 games, but one matter remains unsettled.
Cruz is among a number of Major League players who have been linked to a Miami wellness clinic called Biogenesis, according to the Miami New Times. The clinic is being investigated by MLB for selling performance-enhancing drugs. Cruz has never tested positive for any PED, but his name was listed in a ledger of clients.
The Rangers have been told that Major League Baseball is conducting its own investigation into the situation. Cruz has not heard anything about it, but he could talk to investigators in the next couple of weeks. He is hoping it will be before Opening Day.
Members of the Players Association were in camp on Thursday afternoon for their annual spring meeting with the Rangers. Union officials said they were monitoring the Miami situation and waiting for the results of any investigation before reacting. The Rangers are taking the same position.
"Until Major League Baseball makes a decision, it's not an issue here in camp," manager Ron Washington said.
If Cruz is letting the uncertainty of the situation bother him, he didn't show it during the World Baseball Classic.
"I haven't thought about it until today," Cruz said. "Nothing is going on with that. ... I'm still waiting on it. Hopefully we can take care of that before the season starts."
Cruz also faces the uncertainty of what will happen after this season. He is eligible for free agency, and there have been no contract discussions with the Rangers. Instead, he will likely begin the season in the last year of his contract.
"I always have high expectations for me," Cruz said. "I always expect to play on a high level. I know this is a big year for me, but I'm not thinking I have to do extra stuff. That's when you get into trouble. I'm going to perform like I always do and not change anything."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.