Orioles DH Nelson Cruz surpassed expectations of Ned Yost, his first manager

Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost, who was Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz’s first manager with the Milwaukee Brewers, said the slugger has surpassed even Yost’s high expectations for him since their time together in 2005.

“I loved Nelson Cruz when he was there,” Yost said. “Nelly was right on the verge of becoming a special player at that time -- still struggling to make contact, but when he did make contact, it was loud contact. But you could tell down the road that he was going to be a big-time power hitter.”

The Brewers, who Yost managed from 2003 to 2008, acquired Cruz from the Oakland Athletics in December 2004. He had one hit in five at-bats over eight games in 2005. The Brewers traded Cruz to the Texas Rangers in July 2006, and he endured two up-and-down seasons there before breaking out for the first of three All-Star seasons in 2008.

“I’m a totally different player than what I was,” Cruz said. “I was kind of young compared to what I am now, but you always try to get those good memories -- first hit, first big-league game, first time you come up in a big-league clubhouse. That’s something you’re never going to forget.”

Cruz hit .271 with a major league-high 40 home runs in his first season with the Orioles, and for the first time in his career, he passed the 100-RBIs mark with 108 on the year.

He has compiled six consecutive seasons of more than 20 home runs, and entered Saturday’s game 8-for-17 with two home runs, six RBIs, and five runs scored in postseason play this year.

“I always thought he would be a good player, but he's turned out to be a much better player than I ever envisioned him being,” Yost said.

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