Can Cruz be as good against K.C.? (with notes)

Now that Nelson Cruz is done hammering Tigers pitching in the 2014 playoffs, he can take aim at the Royals, who don’t have three former Cy Young Award winners.

It didn’t seem to matter in the American League Division Series, when the Royals posted a 1.74 ERA while sweeping the Angels.

Cruz has hit eight of his 16 career postseason home runs against the Tigers. Overall, he’s a lifetime .297/.349/.710 hitter in 37 playoff games, with nine doubles and 32 RBIs. He went 6-for-12 with two homers, five RBIs and four runs in the ALDS.

jones-cruz-very-happy-white-sidebar.jpgIt may not be as easy for Cruz against the Royals, who have held him to a .238/.301/.470 line in 48 career games, with six doubles, 11 homers and 33 RBIs in 168 at-bats. He’s hit .209/.275/.451 (19-for-91) with four doubles, six homers and 19 RBIs in 24 games in Kansas City.

Cruz went 5-for-27 (.185) with two homers, six RBIs and 10 strikeouts in seven games against the Royals this season. He was 4-for-16 with a home run and four RBIs in four games at Kauffman Stadium.

It may not matter, considering that Cruz batted .349/.384/.604 in September and tore through the Division Series like a man on a mission. Two-run homer in Game 1, two-run homer in Game 3, feared presence in the middle of the lineup.

Cruz is 6-for-26 (.231) with a double, home run and eight strikeouts against James Shields, who’s expected to start Game 1 for the Royals. He’s 10-for-30 (.333) with seven doubles, four homers, eight RBIs and seven walks against left-hander Jason Vargas.

As for the Royals’ vaunted bullpen, Cruz is 1-for-6 with three strikeouts against closer Greg Holland, 2-for-11 with two home runs and five strikeouts against Wade Davis, and 3-for-10 with a double, home run and six RBIs against Jason Frasor.

FOX Sports reported yesterday that Cruz changed agents, dropping Adam Katz of Wasserman Media Group and signing with Diego Bentz of Relativity Sports. Cruz fired Seth and Sam Levinson of ACES and hired Katz in August 2013.

What does this latest development mean for the Orioles? Nothing that they didn’t already know. Cruz isn’t going to accept another one-year, $8 million deal, no matter who reps him, which he did in spring training after rejecting the Rangers’ $14.1 million qualifying offer.

The Orioles seem more likely to make a qualifying offer to Cruz than negotiate a long-term deal. Manager Buck Showalter has done a nice job of keeping Cruz healthy - the outfielder has a history of leg ailments - by using him as the designated hitter for about half the games.

Cruz brought baggage to the Ed Smith Stadium complex following his 50-game suspension last year for being linked to the Biogenesis case. The Orioles offered a modest contract and a fresh start, and he repaid them with a major league-leading 40 home runs.

Showalter was asked following Game 3 whether he could have imagined such production from Cruz after seeing him early in spring training.

“Heavens no,” Showalter replied.

“We just felt like it was a good fit where he was, not necessarily in his career but his mindset going into the season,” Showalter said. “I think Nelson, not a vindictiveness, but he knows things were self-inflicted. He really wanted to establish himself, reestablish himself, and we thought we could provide a real good opportunity for him and the sky might be the limit. But we weren’t that smart.

“Certainly glad he passed our way. It was another good signing by Dan (Duquette). He judged where things might fall potentially down the road. I know there was a lot of, not panic, a lot of anxiety by some of our Baltimore family. Big range about what we were doing. But just because things are delayed doesn’t mean they’re denied.”

The Orioles are glad they weren’t denied Cruz’s bat this season.

“The whole series, the whole season for us, he’s been unbelievable,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy.

“He’s been outstanding,” said Game 3 starter Bud Norris. “Our MVP for sure. There have been so many guys that have stepped up this year but what Nelson’s been through in the last couple years and to come into Baltimore and have another outstanding season, you can’t ask for more. He has a postseason pedigree and we are pretty pumped he is on our side.”

Notes: As part of today’s closed workout at Camden Yards, right-handers Miguel Gonzalez and Ublado Jimenez and left-handers Brian Matusz and T.J. McFarland pitched in a simulated game.

Does this game offer any clues to the composition of the ALCS roster?

Single-A Frederick third baseman Jason Esposito hit a game-tying home run today for Glendale in the opener of the Arizona Fall League.

The Associated Press reports that this winter’s qualifying offers will be worth $15.3 million.

Former Orioles manager Dave Trembley, recently fired as Astros bench coach, has been hired by the Braves as director of player development. Good for him.

The Orioles have introduced new 20-game and 40-game season ticket plans that will guarantee access to 2014 ALCS and World Series tickets, among many of the Orange Carpet Benefits enjoyed by existing season plan holders. Such benefits include significant savings over individual game tickets, a flexible exchange policy, early ballpark access and more.

Fans who place a deposit on a new 20-game or 40-game plan, or on an existing 29-game or 81-game plan, by 5 p.m. Wednesday will be guaranteed tickets to the ALCS and World Series based on level of commitment.

The 13-game plans that include 2014 postseason tickets are sold out and are no longer available. Existing 13-game plan holders, and those previously placing a deposit on a 13-game plan, will be accommodated with any postseason opportunities that have already been committed.

Fans can place a deposit by calling 1-888-848-BIRD or by visiting www.orioles.com/postseason which also features a postseason seating chart, schedule and additional ticket information. The private sale of guaranteed ALCS tickets will take place online on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) announced that Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson will be honored will be honored with the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at the 15th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York.

The event, which takes place on Nov. 18 at Capitale, recognizes former major league players for their accomplishments on the diamond coupled with their off-the-field contributions to communities across the nation.

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