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Tiebreaker notebook: Cruz returns, bats sixth

The SportsXchange

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Nelson Cruz returned to the Texas Rangers' lineup after serving a 50-game suspension, batting sixth in Monday night's wild-card tiebreaker game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Rangers Ballpark.

The decision to activate Cruz was academic for Texas general manager Jon Daniels. Getting him into the lineup was manager Ron Washington's call.

It was a no-brainer.

"Having him in that lineup extends it, and it's another threat," Washington said. "I asked him how he felt, and he said he's ready to go. I know Nelson Cruz.

"I've been in the game long enough to know that I'm not expecting to see the Nellie we had before he left, but if (the opposing pitcher should) throw something in the wrong spot, I expect to jump up and down."

Cruz led the Rangers in home runs and RBIs when Major League Baseball handed down the suspension Aug. 5 for a violation of the terms of the drug policy. The 33-year-old veteran was connected with the Biogenesis clinic that was accused of providing banned performance-enhancing drugs.

Cruz took park in the Rangers' instructional league program in Arizona for the past two weeks. He went 9-for-27 (.333) with five doubles, a home run, and nine RBIs in eight advanced instructional league games.

He took batting practice with the Rangers on Monday and pronounced himself ready to go. Cruz enters the game with an impressive history against Tampa Bay starter David Price, batting .429 with three home runs and five RBIs in his career against the left-hander.

"I feel good," Cruz said. "I feel really confident. I've been out a long time preparing for this, so I should be ready. I'm going to enjoy this moment. Happy to be back. Happy to be with my teammates. It's a blessing to see the reception they gave me when I came back to the clubhouse."

Texas players were more than pleased to welcome Cruz back. The organization didn't have any reservations either.

The San Francisco Giants faced a similar situation last year but decided not to reinstate All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera from a PED suspension. The Giants went on to win the World Series.

"It's a completely different situation from the Giants mainly because Nellie's been here with the team and part of the organization since 2006, whereas Melky spent just that first half of the season (with San Francisco)," Daniels said.

NOTES: Texas-Tampa Bay was the 10th one-game tiebreaker in baseball history with the winner advancing to the postseason. Seven of the 10 came in the past 19 seasons, with three in the past three years. It was the fourth tiebreaker for a wild card, the first in the American League. ... Rangers LHP Martin Perez started against the Rays for the first time in his career. He made a relief appearance against Tampa Bay last year, allowing two runs in five innings. ... Price entered the game with a poor career record against the Rangers: 1-4 with a 5.98 ERA in eight starts.
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