SARASOTA, Fla. - If Nelson Cruz takes his physical today as scheduled, the results may not come back until Monday, which would likely push back a press conference to the following day.
One of Cruz’s former teammates with the Rangers is glad that the veteran outfielder is joining the Orioles after agreeing yesterday to a one-year, $8 million contract.
Chris Davis has been a strong and outspoken opponent of steroid use. He resents the suspicions and outright accusations that his 53-homer season in 2013 was fueled by PEDs, and he still regards Roger Maris’ 61 home runs as the true single-season record because it’s a clean one.
Cruz was suspended 50 games last season for his part in the Biogenesis scandal, but Davis will greet him warmly inside the Orioles clubhouse. No cold shoulder, no hard feelings.
“I’m happy about it,” Davis told me earlier today. “I know that it’s kind of a touchy subject. Nobody wants anybody to cheat. I think that’s the biggest issue with the PEDs from the drug testing, that we’re trying to get baseball back to a state of integrity where you don’t have to worry about the guy across from you having an advantage that you don’t have. That being said, I think there’s something to be said about a guy who owns up to his mistake.
“I think that’s the biggest thing, too. If you get caught, guys are saying, ‘You know what? I did it, I cheated, I’m going to serve my suspension, I’m going to learn from this and move on.’ Guys who are trying to deny, deny and deny and continue to try to cheat the system when they’re obviously guilty are guys that I think rub people the wrong way.
“In Nelson’s case, he is a great player. He was before he did whatever he did. I had a chance to play with him in 2008 and the guy was a special player. I think he can help us out a lot. He’s a great guy to have in the clubhouse. A great person to have around.
“Like I said, I think there’s something to be said for owning up to your mistake. At some point, we have to forgive guys for what they’ve done and say, ‘OK, he was caught and he owned it and now it’s time to move on.’”
Right fielder Nick Markakis took the same stance yesterday when approached by reporters. The Orioles have created an environment that makes the outsiders feel at home, and Cruz will be welcomed despite his transgression.
“I think we all feel kind of cheated when something like that happens,” Davis said. “Obviously, the guys have been making mistakes. I don’t think they’re proud of it. But at the same time, if a guy owns up to it and serves his punishment, he’s not trying to run away from it, at some point you have to forgive him and move on.
“Nelson is a guy who, personally, has been close to me in the past because we’ve gone through a lot of the same things with him coming up and struggling, being sent down and kind of bouncing back and forth. I think he was in a position at the time where he was struggling with injuries and really just trying to get back on the field. He’s going to have to live with that for the rest of his career, but I think he’s a guy who can really help us and a guy who will fit really, really well in this clubhouse.”
Asked for more insight on Cruz’s personality, Davis smiled and said, “He’s good, man. He’s a big guy, a goofy guy, has a lot of fun. I think a lot of times he can come off as being kind of careless, but he really enjoys the game and I think it’s something that’s important for everybody to remember.
“I think there were times last year when we were a little tight maybe because of expectations. I think two years ago, one of the biggest things we had going for us was we didn’t really care. We had kind of that glazed over eye look. We were enjoying the moment, enjoying being part of it. But Nellie has a good time. He plays really hard. And I think he can really help us out.”
The Orioles’ front office has helped the cause by signing pitchers Ubadlo Jimenez and Suk-min Yoon and agreeing to terms with Cruz, who has hit at least 22 homers in each of the past five season. The activity has been confined to the past week, coming at a dizzying pace.
“I think the last couple of years have been, in my mind, productive years for us,” Davis said. “Obviously last year, not making the postseason was tough, but we’re headed in the right direction. You see that the club has really stepped up the last couple of weeks.
“I said something yesterday, kind of joking around, ‘Man, we’re getting really serious about this World Series thing,’ and I think we are. I think it’s a good sign to show that the front office and the players are on the same page.”