O's fans give Cruz warm welcome before HR

O's fans give Cruz warm welcome before HR

BALTIMORE -- Nelson Cruz got nothing but love from Orioles fans on Tuesday night.

Cruz, last year's Most Valuable Oriole who helped lead the club to its first American League East title since 1997, stepped to the plate in the first inning to loud cheers at Camden Yards. It was exactly what the All-Star was hoping for.

"Love, hopefully," Cruz said of what he was hoping for from the crowd despite his Mariners uniform. "Until I do something to [tick] them off. But hopefully, [I'll get] love."

Cruz proved prescient, singling in his first at-bat off O's starter Miguel Gonzalez before crushing a three-run homer in his next plate appearance that rendered the crowd hushed.

Cruz's three-run homer

"It was weird [returning to Texas], like it's going to be today," he said. "Maybe the first at-bat will be different, but after that it's part of the game. You have to move on."

Cruz spent just one season in Baltimore, but he quickly became a fan favorite and it was an unpopular move this winter when the front office came up short of re-signing the slugger. Cruz, who was offered a three-year deal by the O's, took a four-year contract with Seattle and entered Tuesday with a Major League-leading 15 home runs.

"He handled himself with a lot of class here, and everybody would have liked to have him. [We] feel lucky he passed our way," manager Buck Showalter said of Cruz. "I've known Nelson for a long time -- same guy he was when we first got him from Texas. He's one of those guys that earlier in the spring, guys we're asking me, 'Is this for real?' There will be some moments where he will revert to spontaneity where you will see another side of him, but Nelson is a very real guy."

Cruz, who also attended Manny Machado's charity event on Monday night, anticipated it would be a little strange in the visiting dugout.

"He's a heck of a teammate and he's playing extremely well, which never hurts," Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He's had a tremendous impact on this club, much like he did with the Orioles. I'm sure they enjoyed him when he was here, and I'm sure that he's excited to be back playing in front of the crowd of here. For my sake, hopefully he gives them a lot of thrills."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.