Nelson Cruz staying in shape for possible return for playoffs

Posted Friday, Aug. 30, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Nelson Cruz returned to Rangers Ballpark and took part in early batting practice Friday afternoon, his first appearance since accepting a 50-game suspension earlier this month for his ties in the Biogenesis of America scandal.

After his hitting session, Cruz made a brief statement to reporters but did not field questions.

“I had to apologize to the fans, to the Texas Rangers organization and all Major League Baseball for the mistake that I made,” Cruz said. “I apologize to my family and friends that believe in me. It’s been a really tough few weeks. I have good friends and good family. They’ve been behind me. They give me the support I need to stand against you guys.

“Hopefully the team goes to the playoffs and gives me a chance to help them out. … I’ll be ready.”

Cruz is allowed to work out at the ballpark, but cannot be on the field, in the workout facilities or in the clubhouse when gates are opened to the public. Gates opened at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Cruz will stay and workout in Texas until late next week, and then head to the Rangers’ facility in Surprise, Ariz. He will participate in instructional-league games, beginning on Sept. 18, and could be an option for the postseason. His suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs will be fully served by the end of the regular season.

General manager Jon Daniels said the team is open to adding Cruz to a potential postseason roster, but stressed that they aren’t taking a playoff berth for granted.

“Our thought process is just to keep him as ready as we can,” Daniels said. “If we’re in the postseason, we’ll make an evaluation. We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves.”

Daniels added that Cruz’s possible return does not mean the organization is OK with players using performance-enhancing drugs.

“I don’t want to create any sort of misconception that we approve of any of that … we don’t,” Daniels said. “We’re very clear of that and I think the right thing happened in how it was handled by MLB. All that being said, we’re going to keep our options open.”

Cruz was leading the team in RBIs (76) and home runs (27) when he was suspended on Aug. 5. Manager Ron Washington and other players have said they would welcome back Cruz should the team make the postseason.

Washington spent some time with Cruz and said he felt the All-Star outfielder was in good spirits and “doesn’t look troubled now.”

Cruz, who will become a free agent after the season, has been a mainstay with the team the past five years, and has an impressive track record in the playoffs that includes being the 2011 American League Championship Series MVP.

The Rangers acquired Alex Rios to fill the void in right field left by Cruz four days after the suspension was announced, but Cruz could return as the designated hitter in the postseason. The Rangers have used rookie Jurickson Profar in that spot, while also rotating other infielders through it.

Regardless of how he’s used in a potential playoff series, the Rangers know the impact Cruz could have in October.

“If we end up getting to the playoffs, we’re not looking for him to come and carry us, just be a part of the lineup,” Washington said. “He’ll hurt somebody.”

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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