SARASOTA, Fla. - Today’s press conference introducing Nelson Cruz to the media lasted about 10 minutes. A group of his new teammates stood in the back to offer their support, including Adam Jones, Manny Machado, J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Tommy Hunter, Nick Markakis, Darren O’Day and hitting coach Jim Presley.
“That means they care about their teammates,” Cruz said. “From experience, I know the closer you are to your teammates, the better you’re going to perform on the field. We are now a family and we’re going to stick together the whole time.”
Cruz is wearing No. 23. First base coach Wayne Kirby switched to 24, and Jemile Weeks switched to 1.
So far, Brian Roberts’ uniform number has not been retired.
Cruz said he’s putting last year’s transgression behind him, a reference to his role in the Biogenesis scandal that led to a 50-game suspension.
“No doubt,” he said. “Whatever happened in the past, I look to move forward and have a great year with the Baltimore Orioles.”
Will Cruz serve as the designated hitter or play the outfield?
“Yes,” replied manager Buck Showalter, unwilling to back himself into that corner.
“We’re going to see how we do things. We’re going to keep everybody... Obviously, Nelson is going to get his at-bats and we try to keep everybody in the flow. We’re not going to have somebody get pigeonholed in one spot. It’s only beneficial for everybody, whether it be Adam, whether it be Nick. That’s always a lot of fun going to them about DHing. That’s the thing with Nelson. I have a lot of respect for what he’s accomplished on both sides of the baseball and we’d be foolish not to take advantage of that, so we’re going to keep everybody in the flow and see how the club shakes out.
“There’s a lot of things that can happen between now and the end of spring, as you’ve already seen. Sometimes you don’t know exactly how it’s going to work out. His acquisition helps me keep everybody healthy as we go forward.”
Cruz didn’t express a preference, saying he’s just “happy to be in the lineup.”
“Whatever they think is going to help the team do better, I’m prepared to do it,” he said.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette provided the opening statement in his third press conference in a week. Will there be another one before the Orioles break camp?
“We’ve been steadily putting our team together,” he said. “We signed a couple of pitchers, which we said we were going to do, and we said we were looking for a bat in the middle of our lineup and Nelson can fill that role. We’re always looking, but I don’t anticipate any players of this caliber soon, but we’re always looking around.
“We’re glad to have Nelson. Nelson is a proven slugger. He’s one of the few guys who has hit over 20 home runs over the last five years and you heard from his former team what a great teammate he is. He’s a real solid addition to our team both personally and by what he brings on the field.”
Here’s more from the presser:
Duquette’s opening statement
“I’m glad we could make this the habit. This is the third time we’ve done this this week. I want to welcome our players here. We appreciate your attendance at the conference. The Orioles today are announcing a one-year deal with Nelson Cruz. Nelson is a power hitter, he does very well against both left- and right-handed pitching. He’s also been a clutch performer in the playoffs, where he’s hit over 14 home runs in 34 games and distinguished himself in 2011 as the MVP of the ALCS. He has an excellent arm on defense and is a proven solid dependable performer in the American League. He presents a good presence in the middle of the lineup, which will extend our lineup and make our team more formidable.
“I want to thank (agent) Adam Katz for his role in helping to bring this agreement together and I want to congratulate Nelson on behalf of the Orioles and wish him a lot of luck.”
Cruz on why he chose the Orioles
“First of all, I want to thank Dan and Buck and my teammates. Thank you for the support. I think it’s the right fit. I like to compete, I like to be in a race. This is a team that fits right for me. It’s a great environment.”
On whether the Orioles were on his radar all winter
“Yeah, it was there since the beginning. That was my goal, one of the teams that I was looking for.”
On whether he’s motivated after settling for a one-year deal
“I don’t think I have to prove anything. It was a frustrating process, but I’m happy for the decision that I made. I’m really excited for the opportunity. I like challenges and I think it’s going to be a great challenge for me. Hopefully, I do my best and I look for the World Series.”
Showalter on his past relationship with Cruz as Rangers manager
“He was a puppy then. He’s a grizzled veteran now. He made us look smart. That was an easy evaluation. I’m real proud of the way he’s evolved not only as a player, but as a person and teammate. The one common denominator when you talk to people about Nelson is about his relationship with his teammates and his city. This is one of the most popular players in Texas. He’s a real sincere guy. It’s one of those things where he’ll show you, not talk about it. That part of the equation we felt real good about. And any time you’ve got first-hand knowledge of a guy, the way he conducts himself, you feel real good about that part. The only thing you want to have challenge guys is the game itself, and he has a way of making his teammates better by the way he treats them.”
Cruz on his relationship with Showalter
“He was kind of my first manager, the one who gave me a chance to play almost every day, and I’m happy to be with him again.”
Cruz on the Orioles lineup
“Every time you play the Orioles, the presence of the hitter, that always sticks out in your mind. Hopefully, I come in and do my job. Like I said, I’m excited about this opportunity. I’m going to be in a great ballpark in a great division. I like the challenge and I like to compete, so this is the best atmosphere I’ve been in.”
The Cruz press conference will air in its entirety at 5 p.m. on “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report” on MASN HD. Technical issues in Sarasota cut off the transmission several minutes into this morning’s live broadcast.