Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz played the past eight seasons with the Texas Rangers, hitting the first 157 home runs of his career.
When his free-agent market seemed to be crashing this winter, it was rumored that Cruz would simply return to Arlington, Texas, where he has batted .294 (26 points higher than his .268 career average) and blasted 92 home runs in 400 career games.
Instead, the Orioles jumped in and grabbed Cruz on a one-year, $8 million deal and brought him to another place that has seen its share of home runs over the years: Camden Yards.
Cruz has flourished with the Orioles so far this year, batting .284 and leading the team in homers (seven) and RBIs (25). His 24 RBIs in 22 April games were his most for an April in his career, and it was only the fifth time that he has surpassed 20 RBIs in any month. In only one other month in his career has he had more than 24 RBIs; he had 26 in July 2011.
The crazy thing is that Cruz has been much better so far this year on the road (.353 average, 4 HRs, 19 RBIs in 13 games) than at home (.189 average, 3 HRs, 6 RBIs in 10 games).
Typically, hitters’ numbers heat up in Baltimore as the temperature does, and the balls certainly carry more in the summer at Camden Yards.
And that could be an excellent sign for Cruz. His former manager Ron Washington thinks Cruz is setting up to have a monster season.
“That ballpark can’t hold Nelson. Nelson is streaky, but that ballpark ... that can’t hold Nelson,” Washington told reporters in Texas on Wednesday. “Nelson hit a pop-up, and it’s gone.”
Before Wednesday's game in Texas, Washington was asked whether he was surprised that Cruz has gotten off to such a strong start with the Orioles.
This was his answer: “I’m not surprised by anything Nelson does. He did it for us. He had his moments when he struggled, but at the end, he always had huge numbers. He can make a difference in your lineup. That’s what he’s doing in Baltimore. They’ve lost Chris Davis, but they’ve got that big sucker in that bandbox.”