ARLINGTON, Texas - Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he almost removed Nelson Cruz from tonight’s game due to leg cramps that surfaced around the fourth inning.
Good thing he chose to stick with Cruz, who made a slow trot around the bases after his three-run homer in the eighth contributed mightily to the Orioles’ 8-3 victory over the Rangers at Globe Life Park.
Showalter wondered before the game whether Cruz would be amped up facing his former team for the first time.
“It was just the opposite,” Showalter said. “I thought tonight he was real calm. He was real confident in terms of knowing what he’s got to do. He didn’t let them take him out of the strike zone.
“He was cramping up. I almost took him out of the game before the last at-bat. If you notice how slow he was running around the bases, he was cramping the whole time around. We were debating - he and I - about whether he should take that last at-bat or not. He said, ‘Let me see how it feels on deck,’ and he took the at-bat and he got halfway down to first. That was a cramp trot.”
Cruz had a huge smile on his face as he approached home plate after the 404-foot home run, and he performed the usual hand-slapping celebration that requires about two dozen moves.
“He’s been doing that after every home run,” Showalter said. “He just is who he is. He hasn’t changed anything. He’s very honest when he says being ready to play today had nothing to do with who he’s playing.
“It’s worked out for him and he’s tried to take the high road and he’s getting a return for it.”
Caleb Joseph broke a 2-2 with an RBI double in the eighth - only his fourth hit of the season.
“I told Caleb five or six days ago, I said, ‘You’ve got a track record of hitting. Don’t worry about that,’ ” Showalter said. “He was the Eastern League MVP last year, so just keep catching and putting down good fingers and know that we know that you’re capable of hitting.
“He had some good at-bats. We made a little tweak with something in him. See if it carries over the next time he catches.”
Joseph drove in his second run of the season.
“I had kind of the same opportunity a few innings earlier and hit a fly ball to right-center,” he said. “It felt good to get another opportunity, kind of a redeemer. And (Jim) Presley and I kind of tweaked something right before the at-bat that I got the single and it worked, so I just tried to go in there and do the same thing. I got a fastball and put good wood on it and it just traveled.
“It means a lot. I feel like I’ve been contributing defensively since I got here. It finally feels good to contribute offensively. I’m known as a hitter and haven’t shown it, but hopefully tonight gets it going and confidence starts leading right into the rest of the at-bats.”
Asked to explain the tweak, Joseph said, “It was just an adjustment in my stance. I’ve kind of been getting under some balls. Just a very minute adjustment in my stance allowed me to stay on top of the ball. A lot of my outs have been I’m just under the ball, so when I’m playing well I really drive through the ball, down through it. Something clicked. He said something and it clicked and we’re rolling with it now.”
Ubaldo Jimenez again was disappointed in his high pitch count, which led to his removal after 5 2/3 innings despite allowing only one run.
“I felt fine,” he said. “I’m just in the same situation that I had before. I’m trying to get deeper in the game. I threw too many pitches the first four innings.”
At least he kept stranding runners.
“Yeah, I felt really good doing that, especially that I was able to minimize the damage and we got the win,” he said. “That’s what really matters. You have to do everything possible to get as deep as we can and help the team.”
Showalter hinted earlier today at a possible roster move related to an injured reliever, but it won’t happen tonight.
“No, I think we’re OK,” he said. “We’ll see what tomorrow brings. We’ve still got a couple concerns and we want to see how we manage between now and tomorrow.”