Although Nelson Cruz was a major part of the Rangers offense, Texas has fared fine without him. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The Rangers’ offense continued its torrid stretch on Wednesday, and this time its victim was the usually incombustible Felix Hernandez. In a 12-4 win, the Rangers scored nine runs (eight earned) on eleven hits in three-plus innings against Hernandez, raising his ERA from 2.63 all the way to 2.97.
Since August 4th, Texas is 16-5 and has averaged an MLB-high 6.4 runs per game. August 4th is the date on which the man who remains their second-leading home run hitter -- Nelson Cruz -- played his final game before beginning his 50-game PED suspension. In that game, Cruz slugged his 27th homer (Adrian Beltre passed him on Wednesday), but there is reason to wonder if we’ll ever see him in a Rangers uniform again. Cruz will be a free agent after this season, and we don’t know if his club would welcome him back for the playoffs after his ban has ended -- as the Giants declined to with Melky Cabrera last October.
According to an item at the bottom of Ken Rosenthal’s FoxSports.com notes column from earlier this week, we haven’t seen the last of Cruz in Texas, nor the last of him in 2013. Rosenthal wrote:
"Suspended Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz recently spent three days working out at the team’s complex in the Dominican Republic. Club officials are trying to put together a plan for him to work out briefly with the major league club before he heads to the club’s spring training facility in Surprise, Ariz.
The Joint Drug Agreement allows players to continue training in such fashion, and the Rangers have told Cruz they want him to be an option if they get to the postseason. It’s difficult to imagine that Cruz, even after his 50-game suspension, would not be one of the club’s best 25 players."
Cabrera was one of San Francisco's -- and the National League’s -- best players when he was suspended for PED use last year, and yet the Giants didn’t appear to even consider reinstating him to their roster, believing that he’d be a distraction. They won the World Series without him.
Of course, while Cabrera had been a Giant for less than a year when he received his suspension, Cruz has been a Ranger since 2006. It is hard to imagine that the return of one or your longest-tenured, best-liked and most productive players could be construed as much of a negative, no matter his misdeeds, and it doesn’t appear as if the Rangers will view him as such. What they will view him as is a piece that will make what has again emerged as baseball’s best offense even better -- and as one who can play in the outfield along with the man acquired to replace him, Alex Rios, thereby relegating the continually struggling David Murphy (who is hitting .224 in August, barely better than his seasonal average) to the bench. Suddenly, a third trip to the World Series in four years seems within reach.