ARLINGTON, Texas - It began as an uneventful homecoming tonight for Nelson Cruz at Glove Life Park. He received a warm ovation before his first at-bat and went hitless in four trips to the plate before getting another chance in the eighth.
The Orioles already had scored three runs to break a 2-2 tie. Cruz tacked on three more with his 21st home run of the season.
He won’t soon forget his return to Arlington.
“It feels good. It’s just different,” he said.
“It was kind of weird. It was kind of like one of my first days in the big leagues. Everything was going fast, but after the first at-bat, you try to stay in the moment and stay focused. The fans and the media. It was kind of quick.”
Cruz was slowed by leg cramps, making for an extended home run trot in the eighth. He tried to explain it to Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus as he passed.
“I was cramping since the fourth inning,” Cruz said. “It was bad. I wanted to take my last at-bat and hopefully get something going. The game was tied going into that inning.
“I was cramping the whole time.”
As the ovation built for Cruz in the first inning, he stepped out of the box and took a few practice swings. No wave or tip of the helmet. He appreciated the gesture, but he was focused on hitting.
“It was pretty good,” he said. “It was nice. They were always behind me when I was here.”
Cruz has left his Rangers days behind him. He’s happy in his new surroundings, as he keeps telling visiting media.
“I think I’m already part of this team,” he said. “I feel really comfortable in the locker room and with my teammates, so when you see old faces, memories come back but ... everything is going smooth.
“I’m happy where I am right now. That’s the only thing I can say. I cannot ask for anything else. I think my Lord has blessed me really well and I feel happy. That’s the only thing I can say.”
Cruz signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles. He has no idea where he’ll play in 2015. Maybe in Baltimore.
Wherever he lands, it figures to cost his team a lot more money.
“I cannot predict what’s going to happen,” Cruz said. “Just like I said, just stay focused on whatever’s going on right now.”