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Big League Stew

Nelson Cruz will be activated for Monday’s Rays-Rangers tiebreaker game after 50-game PED suspension

Mike Oz
Big League Stew

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(USA Today)

The Texas Rangers have won seven games in a row, righting a September record that was 4-15 at one point and forcing a one-game tiebreaker Monday with the Tampa Bay Rays. It will decide which team gets the second wild card spot in the American League playoffs.

But the Rangers have a wild card of their own — his name is Nelson Cruz and he'll be activated Monday after a 50-game suspension for PED use.

He was among the 13 players suspended on Aug. 5 by Major League Baseball after its investigation into the Biogenesis clinic. Cruz is one of Texas' biggest bats. Proof: His 27 home runs and 76 RBIs are still second on the team, despite missing almost a third of the season.

Rangers GM Jon Daniels announced that the team would add Cruz back to its roster after the 6-2 win Sunday against the Angels that forced Monday's tiebreaker. Daniels said the decision to use Cruz, however, would be up to manager Ron Washington.

Cruz, for his part, fired off a few "go-team" tweets after the game.

Cruz's availability raises an interesting predicament for Washington and the Rangers coaching staff: Should they play Cruz? And we're not asking this question for morality's sake.

Should the Rangers turn to a guy who hasn't played in 50 games in a win-or-go-home scenario? Especially considering their current roster has rattled off seven straight wins.

You might think, "Hey, Nelson Cruz, would be a great pinch hitter." In theory, yes. But we're talking about a guy who hasn't faced big-league pitching since Aug. 4. Is he ready for a tight spot in the bottom of the eighth?

It's a tough call. Cruz could be a difference-maker, he could be chomping at the bit, ready to pounce on the first pitch he sees. Or he could be a star without a groove. There's not too much time to find it, though. Even if the Rangers win on Monday, they face another single-game elimination situation on Wednesday.

And just when you thought this AL wild card couldn't get any wilder.

Pennant races are here. Spend the stretch run with us.
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