Short stint in Baltimore has lasting impact for Cruz
By Ben Raby
Special to MLB.com |
BALTIMORE -- Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz spent just one season with the Orioles, but the 2014 campaign remains memorable both for Baltimore baseball fans and for Cruz himself.
After signing a one-year deal with Baltimore on Feb. 25, 2014, Cruz went on to lead the Majors with 40 home runs and finished with a team-high 108 RBIs. The Orioles won the American League East, with Cruz finishing seventh in AL MVP voting.
Cruz was among the most coveted free agents the following offseason, before signing a four-year, $57 million deal with Seattle.
Now more than a full season removed from calling Baltimore home, Cruz is still warmly received at Camden Yards, where he is frequently met with chants of "Cruuuuz."
"I guess I left them with good memories, so that's good," said Cruz, who entered Wednesday having reached base safely in 22 straight games at Camden Yards dating back to Aug. 28, 2014.
Cruz looked right at home in Seattle's 10-0 series-opening win over the Orioles on Tuesday, finishing 3-for-3 with a home run, a season-high five RBIs, two runs scored and a walk.
"When you have as much success as he had that one year, it helps a lot," Mariners manager Scott Servais said of Cruz continuing to hit well in Baltimore.
Dating back to last season, Cruz is 8-for-13 in his last four games in Baltimore, with two homers, eight RBIs, five runs scored and four walks.
"It does become psychological where somehow when you stand in the batter's box, it feels good," Servais said. "I think Nelson is comfortable here, he certainly knows the ballpark and the surroundings. He had a fantastic year here, it's what led him to come to Seattle, so good for him."
"You always want to have a good impression against your [former] teammates and against your old fans also," Cruz said. "You don't play too many games against the Orioles, so I just try to do my job."
Cruz said that he remains in regular contact with Baltimore's middle-infield tandem of Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop, two players he helped mentor during his brief stint with the O's.
"They look more mature," Cruz said. "Not only numbers, but the way they carry themselves on and off the field, so I'm very proud of them. I was glad to be there. I'm always pulling for those guys."
Ben Raby is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Mariners on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.