Nelson Cruz says 'I want to be in the fire right away'

The Baltimore Sun

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz saw his name in an unfamiliar spot on the lineup card for Thursday’s intrasquad game at Ed Smith Stadium.

Cruz was listed as the No. 9 hitter — for no other reason than that manager Buck Showalter decided to set the lineup in reverse alphabetical order.

“I think it’s the only time I’ve batted ninth in my life,” Cruz said with a smile. “I was like, ‘This is the pitcher Cruz? Oh, it’s [LF], it’s me. I’m left field.’”

Showalter met with Cruz on Wednesday to see get a gauge on how ready he was for games after signing with the team this week. Cruz told Showalter he wanted to get some at-bats Thursday. Cruz had just one at-bat in the intrasquad game, grounding out on a sharp comebacker to lefty T.J. McFarland.

“I wish I could see more pitches,” Cruz said with a smile. “Overall it was good. … Maybe I’m not that ready, but the more at-bats you take, the better you feel. It’s just a matter of time to get a few at-bats and get you ready for the season.”

Cruz will start in Saturday’s Grapefruit League home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

“There’s no doubt I want to be in the fire right away,” he said. “I’ve been doing everything. It’s not the same as playing. I’ve taking some at-bats, taken some live pitching but nothing compared to this. … Maybe I’m ready for the fastball, but I need to see some breaking pitches.”

Cruz said he also told Showalter that he’d like to play most of his games in the outfield.

“Especially in spring training, so I can get everything done,” Cruz said. “It depends on how you feel. Sometimes in spring training you go out in your first at-bat and you feel great. ... Sometimes you go through feelings where you get hits but they shouldn’t be hits. Let’s see how I feel Saturday.”

Cruz said he didn’t know whether he’d start in left field or as the designated hitter Saturday.

“I don’t know, but I want to play in the outfield,” he said. “I get more chance to run and do more activity on the field.”

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