Nelson Cruz seals deal with Rangers

Nelson Cruz, Rangers agree on deal

By Richard Durrett

“I’m happy to be a part of the Texas Rangers family,” Cruz said.

The 31-year-old Cruz is coming off a 2011 season in which he hit .263 with 29 homers and 87 RBIs. He was the ALCS MVP after putting up huge offensive numbers, including a postseason-series record six home runs and 13 RBIs in helping the Rangers beat the Detroit Tigers in six games.

The outfielder and the Rangers had exchanged arbitration figures last month to reveal a gap of $2 million with Cruz asking for $7.5 million and the team offering $5.5 million. Assistant general manager Thad Levine said the deal won’t preclude the Rangers from exploring a longer-term deal with Cruz in the future.

Cruz was acquired at the trade deadline in 2006 when the Rangers sent a package that included reliever Francisco Cordero to the Milwaukee Brewers for Carlos Lee and Cruz. At the time, Cruz had shown an ability to crush minor league pitching but wasn’t able to consistently hit in the majors.

He didn’t hit right away in Texas, either, and revamped his swing in a couple of minor league stints, eventually returning for a solid end to the 2008 season and becoming the starting right fielder the next year. Cruz has 106 home runs in 1,893 regular-season at-bats and has driven in 323 runs.

Cruz has focused on getting his legs stronger for the past month at the Bommarito Performance facility in Miami, joining teammates Mike Napoli and Leonys Martin.

“I feel like I’m in better shape right now than in the past,” Cruz said. “I expect a big performance of myself and nothing less than going back to the World Series.”

Cruz said he went to the Dominican Republic shortly after the playoffs ended but suffered from a stomach bacterial infection that bothered him for a few months, causing him to lose weight. He came back to the United States and said he was treated. He said he weighs about 224 pounds and wants to be at 230, about 10 pounds lighter than his weight in 2011, when spring training starts.

He has been on the disabled list five times the last two seasons, with four of those stints coming because of hamstring issues (the other a quad muscle).

Cruz said he’s worked hard to move on from the World Series — including Game 6 — acknowledging it was a difficult loss. With the Rangers one strike away from the title, Cruz headed back on a ball hit by David Freese but couldn’t get to it and the St. Louis Cardinals tied the score. The Cardinals would win in memorable fashion in the 11th inning before taking Game 7 and the Series.

“It’s one of those balls where I trust my instincts,” Cruz said. “I should have been closer to the wall. I believed I should have been playing shallow and that’s what happened.”

Cruz talked about a desire to return to the World Series and get the ultimate prize this time.

“You always want to complete a goal, especially back-to-back years and not making it,” Cruz said. “You’ve got to get over it. You don’t always get what you want. The whole team, the coaching staff, we have to make sure we get better, whatever we need to do to get better to make sure we get back to the World Series and win it all.”

Napoli is now the only remaining arbitration player the Rangers have on the roster. When figures were exchanged, the Rangers offered $8.3 million and Napoli asked for $11.5 million after hitting a career-best .320 with 30 homers and 75 RBIs in 113 games for the Rangers in 2011. Napoli was traded to Texas last January from Toronto for reliever Frank Francisco.

“Each of these negotiations goes at a different pace,” Levine said. “Clearly, at this juncture we’re going to turn 100 percent of our attention to Napoli and avoiding going to a hearing if possible.”

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