The magical cure for Nelson Cruz's hamstring, quadriceps and groin muscles woes might ultimately have been found in a bacterial virus that attacked his stomach in November.
The right fielder fell ill upon returning to the Dominican Republic after the Texas Rangers lost in the World Series, and started shedding pounds.
He finally traveled to Miami, where doctors made a diagnosis that physicians in the Dominican couldn't make. Down several pounds, Cruz decided to keep the weight off as he prepared for the 2012 season.
Add in diet management and workouts designed to strengthen his legs while also making them more flexible, and Cruz believes he will stay off the disabled list as he tries to make good on a two-year, $16 million contract he signed Thursday.
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The Rangers announced the deal after Cruz passed a physical in Arlington and before he returned to Miami to resume his training with teammates Mike Napoli and Leonys Martin.
He's ready to stay healthy, and went so far as to predict a big season.
"I feel like I'm in a better situation and in better shape than in the past," Cruz said. "I'm expecting a big performance from myself, and I'm not expecting anything less than to go back to the World Series."
Ah, the World Series, where David Freese's deep drive went over Cruz's head with two strikes and two outs in the ninth inning of Game 6. The result was a two-run double and a 7-7 tie in a game St. Louis won two innings later.
Cruz is at peace with the play. He said he was trusting his instincts and playing shallower than he should have, but he hasn't been beating himself up this off-season.
The virus has taken care of that.
Now at 224 pounds, Cruz is hoping to weigh 230 pounds when he reports to Surprise, Ariz., for spring training. He usually reports around 240 pounds and opens the season just above 230.
Cruz is hardly overweight. But the muscle-bound slugger has noticed during his training that less weight has had favorable effects on his oft-injured legs.
Muscle strains have put him on the disabled list five times the past two seasons, and a groin injury almost kept him out of Game 7 of the World Series.
"Everything that I'm doing is new for me," said Cruz, who drove in a career-high 87 runs in 2011 despite playing only 124 games. "I feel like my legs are stronger and more flexible."
The Rangers, who haven't been to an arbitration hearing since 2000, have one more case to settle. They have one week to work out a contract with catcher Mike Napoli, who is seeking $3.2 million more than the Rangers have submitted.
"Clearly at this juncture we're going to turn 100 percent of our attention toward working with Napoli and trying to explore all the alternatives there to avoid going to a hearing," assistant general manager Thad Levine said.