Nelson Cruz arrives in Mariners camp, likes the changes he sees
Nelson Cruz is in camp and ready to go. After an offseason of work and watching the changes made in the Mariners organization, he summed up his feeling for the start of the year in one word.
“Excited,” he said, the first word coming out of his mouth at spring training.
A year ago this time it was more of a get-to-know session for Cruz. This year he realizes he is one of the leaders, one of the guys others will look to when faced with the unfamiliar, of which there is plenty this year for the Mariners.
“We start from here,” he said. “I think this is the moment to get to know everybody. Our job is to keep everybody loose, the new guys make sure they are welcome, and they feel like this is home for them.”
Cruz spent his offseason at home in the Dominican Republic. While he didn’t pick up a bat until early December, he was hard at work early, not taking anything for granted in this game.
“I’m working like I was 20,” said the 35-year-old Cruz. “I haven’t stopped working out. I have that love and I think that’s (the) most important thing. When you quit loving the game or having the passion for the game is when you start breaking down. I think I have been working harder than any other years.
“Everything I do is to make sure it will help me for the season, even what I eat. I guess I have to push my body harder to get better. It was stressful because I was working almost all day, but at the same time I know it is going to pay off.”
Cruz has done his part and believes he will be surrounded by others who can help. He has watched the offseason moves, and to him they make sense.
“It looks good, at least on paper it looks good. Hopefully all the pieces we brought can do what we are supposed to do, and I think we have a good shot to go where we want to go,” he said.
He also has familiarity with new manager Scott Servais, who is credited with fixing his swing after Cruz initially struggling in the Majors with the Rangers.
“I know him pretty good,” Cruz said. “We keep in touch with text. I know all about him. When you know a guy, you know what he is all about, about helping and being out there when needed the most, and that is important for the team.”
Servais will lean on Cruz and his veterans, and has said said that this is ultimately their team. Cruz understands his role.
“I think with leaders we have to make sure we do whatever is on the table,” he said. “Whatever (Servais) brings, I don’t know exactly what it is but we are going to have a meeting to make sure we are on the same page. It is all about winning, whatever it takes.”
That includes perhaps taking a step back in the field. Cruz knows that he could see less time in right field and more at DH this year, and he will prepare accordingly.
“I like to be out there,” he said. “I feel like when I am there I can compete and at least talk to the fans. It’s easy when you are hitting good but when you struggle you think too much. I have to find a routine so I don’t have to think too much about hitting.”
If the end result is more winning, the transition will be easier. Cruz has had experience on teams that went from struggle to the postseason and his plan is to see the same thing happen in Seattle.
“It’s going to happen. We have to trust what we have. It feels like we have whatever it takes. We have to stay healthy and hopefully the pieces that we brought help us do what we are supposed to do.”