Slugger Nelson Cruz says new Mariners manager Scott Servais helped ‘turn my career around’

Mar 4, 2016, 12:02 PM | Updated: 12:09 pm
Nelson Cruz said Scott Servais showed him examples of similar hitters in 2007 to help his approach....
Nelson Cruz said Scott Servais showed him examples of similar hitters in 2007 to help his approach. (AP)
(AP)

Of all the players on the Mariners roster, Nelson Cruz is the one with the most history with Scott Servais. But that doesn’t mean that when it came to Servais being hired during the offseason as the Mariners’ new manager, Cruz saw it coming.

“It was shocking,” Cruz told “Brock and Salk” on 710 ESPN Seattle. “I wasn’t expecting that, a guy that I know that well (to) be at my side, be my manager.”

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The Mariners’ All-Star slugger goes pretty far back with Servais, who played a big part in Cruz finding his stroke as a power hitter when he was sent down to Triple-A by the Texas Rangers in 2007.

“I have to be thankful for what he did for my career. I think he’s one of those guys who turned my career around,” Cruz said. “I remember when I went to Triple-A that year, he came the first day, we started working right away. He showed me a few videos of a few guys that had looked like me – Carlos Lee, Derek Lee – and he tried to implement that stance on a new guy.”

It’s safe to say that the approach Servais helped Cruz put together worked out. Two seasons later, he hit 33 home runs in 128 games for the Rangers, earning an All-Star nod along the way. He now has a streak of seven straight MLB seasons with at least 22 home runs, including a career-high 44 in 2015, his first year with the Mariners.

Now Cruz gets to put all of that power into play for Servais, who is entering his debut season as a professional baseball manager. Even without much on-the-job experience, Servais has proven to Cruz before that he has what it takes to lead a major league team.

“I know what he’s all about. He’s there to help the team win games. Being in the minors as a coach for a long time, developing players, he knows what it takes to bring players to the big leagues and when they’re ready and when they’re not,” he said.

Servais and his coaching staff have also brought a welcoming atmosphere to spring training that is a breath of fresh air to the 35-year-old Cruz appreciates.

“They’re really fun. Totally different from that I was expecting and what I’ve lived in the past,” he said. “I think it helps because you get to know your teammates and you have to have fun. Especially for the young guys, they have to feel like they’re welcome to the clubhouse.”

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Slugger Nelson Cruz says new Mariners manager Scott Servais helped ‘turn my career around’