Cruz finally beating injury bug
Outfielder will appear in All-Star Game after multiple DL stints in past seasons
The Rangers are getting an idea of what outfielder Nelson Cruz can do if he stays healthy and off the disabled list.
That's been an elusive goal during his otherwise productive time with the Rangers, but this season Cruz goes into the All-Star break hitting .277 with 22 home runs, 80 RBIs and a .517 slugging percentage. Those are the kind of numbers that helped get him selected as a reserve outfielder for the American League All-Star team.
"It has been good," Cruz said. "You always think you can do more and improve in some area. There are a lot of ups and downs. You'll go good in one series and not good in the next one. But overall, I think, I have been consistent."
Cruz has been joined in New York by teammates Joe Nathan and Yu Darvish, though Darvish won't participate because of injury.
"Like I said before, we have other good players who deserve to be here," Cruz said. "But we're here and will try to represent the team. Hopefully, I do something good tomorrow to help us win."
The Rangers are also finding out what Cruz can do even while dealing with outside distractions. Cruz, a free agent after this season, has been linked to Major League Baseball's investigation into Biogenesis, the Miami clinic that allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to some players.
But the distraction does not seem to have affected his performance.
"It's very impressive," outfielder David Murphy said. "I can't imagine how that would weigh on my mind. Ever since I met Nelson, he has always been easygoing. He doesn't seem like a guy who lets outside distractions bother him. He's always been able to handle a lot of weight on his shoulders, and that's definitely evident this year."
Remember, Cruz is a career .278 hitter in postseason play, with 14 home runs, 27 RBIs and a .683 slugging percentage. That includes six home runs and 13 RBIs from the 2011 AL Championship Series, the most ever by one player in a postseason series. So he has always been able to thrive in the searing glare of October. But this season represents a different kind of challenge.
"If anybody wanted to find out what Nelson is made of, they did so in the first half," manager Ron Washington said. "He didn't let anything bother him. He just came out every day and grinded it out. We needed somebody in our lineup to step up, and he did. He comes to play every day."
Cruz, in his inimitable low-key manner, just shrugs when he talks about having to deal with non-baseball matters.
"It's a game, and when you come to the field, you focus on the game," he said. "We play every day to win. That is what's simple: coming to the ballpark with the mind-set of winning. That makes it easy to focus."
But it isn't so easy in New York. This is the All-Star Game, it's in the Big Apple, and the media coverage will be substantial. Predictably, Cruz was pressed during Monday's media day about Biogenesis.
And per usual, he didn't have much to say.
"No. Like I said before, I can't comment about it," he said.
The Rangers don't know what will happen after the All-Star break, as they have received almost no information about the status of MLB's investigation. They did sign Manny Ramirez to a Minor League contract a couple of weeks ago and assigned him to Triple-A Round Rock, but club officials insist that move wasn't made as a contingency plan in case Cruz is suspended.
The Rangers proceed with the hope they will have Cruz for the full season, something that has happened once in the past four years. Cruz went on the DL six times from 2009 to 2011. He made it through last season without going on the DL but was hardly healthy. The winter before, he was hit hard with a bad stomach virus; the bug severely curtailed his offseason workouts and left him in a relatively weakened state on Opening Day.
"I didn't feel my strength come back until the second half, maybe July or August," he said. "It wasn't until then [that] my body got better. Most of the time, I was throwing up or just feeling bad. This year I'm healthy, more healthy than any of the past five seasons. Like 2010 -- I could have had a great year in 2010 if I didn't get hurt three times. When you go on the DL three times in one year, it's tough."
Cruz has been through some tough times but has enjoyed more than his share of glorious moments as well. So far this season has been positive, and Cruz has been enjoying the All-Star experience with his family. There may be uncertainty looming in the second half, but he has proven once again he can deliver when he is out on the field.
"I do it every day," he said. "I go on to the field and focus on what we need to do. The most important thing for us is to win games. We have that mentality. We're in the race. That's the main focus."
What does Cruz like best about the All-Star experience?
"Just meeting players from other teams," he said. "You see the talent and want to pick things from them that can help you along the way."
Who was he most looking forward to seeing?
"I think [Joe] Mauer and Mariano [Rivera]," Cruz said. "Mariano about his experience and Mauer about the great hitter that he is."
The final phase of All-Star Game voting will again have fans participating in the official voting for the Ted Williams All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet. During the Midsummer Classic, fans will vote exclusively online at MLB.com via the 2013 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote, and their voice will represent 20 percent of the official vote determining the recipient of the Arch Ward Trophy.
The 2013 All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field on Tuesday. Come to MLB.com for extensive online coverage of the All-Star Week festivities.
The 84th All-Star Game will be televised nationally by FOX Sports, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 200 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network and SiriusXM also will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. Ian Browne contributed from New York. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.