Cruz happy to visit Texas, discusses improvements

Cruz happy to visit Texas, discusses improvements

ARLINGTON -- Nelson Cruz says it's always good to come back to Texas, where he spent eight seasons with the Rangers and played in two World Series. But the Mariners slugger is more interested in his new club now as Seattle opened a three-game series at Globe Life Park on Monday.

"It's still special," Cruz said. "But last year was a bigger deal."

Last year, Cruz came to Arlington as a member of the Orioles and says he was initially greeted with cheers.

"It was good … until I hit a homer," he said with a smile. "I'm a rival now."

He's a Mariner now. And a hot one, having hit a Major League-leading nine homers and 21 RBIs in Seattle's first 19 games after driving in another run with a first-inning single in Monday's 3-1 victory in the series opener.

What's working for him?

"Whatever I did before," Cruz said. "I'm just more consistent than I used to be, I guess. More experience helps."

While the 34-year-old had some big years in Texas, hitting .294 with 93 home runs in 403 games at Globe Life Park, he said there was no hesitancy in signing up for four seasons at Safeco Field, where he's hit .271 with three homers and 11 RBIs in his first 12 games.

"I want to win," said Cruz. "I believe you put everything in perspective. I thought this was the right choice. Once you've been on a winning team and experienced what the playoffs are like, you want to have the chance to go again."

And while the Mariners have struggled a little out of the gate, he remains bullish on his new club.

"No doubt. I think we have what it takes," said Cruz. "Pitching has to be what takes us to the next step. We pitched pretty good last year and I think we're improving and taking small steps this year. We're on the right track."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.