Slugger Nelson Cruz returns to Baltimore with Mariners
BALTIMORE (AP) Nelson Cruz returned to Camden Yards on Tuesday, his mind filled with memories of his one ''special'' season with the Baltimore Orioles.
Cruz led the majors with 40 home runs in 2014 and helped the Orioles win the AL East and a playoff series against the Detroit Tigers.
Baltimore got him at a bargain, a one-year deal for $8 million. After the pact expired, the Seattle Mariners lured the slugger away with a $58 million, four-year contract.
For the first time since Cruz and the Orioles parted ways, Cruz was back at Camden Yards, where Baltimore and the Mariners opened a three-game series.
His uniform was navy blue and northwest green, but his thoughts were orange and black.
''It was a blast,'' Cruz said of the 2014 season. ''We accomplished something very special as a team. We had a great time. Great organization, great teammates. They treated me very well.''
The Orioles hoped to have him back, but the Mariners' offer was too good to pass up.
''We kept in touch when the process was going on,'' Cruz said, ''but unfortunately it's a business.''
Cruz was showered with affection in Baltimore last season. He had no idea how the fans would react to his return, but he was counting on hearing ''Cruuuze!'' rather than ''Booooo!''
''Love, hopefully,'' he said.
Cruz figured his emotions might settle down after his initial trip to the plate.
''Maybe the first at-bat is going to be different, but after that, it's another game,'' he said. ''You have to move on.''
When Orioles manager Buck Showalter looks back at 2014, he sees Cruz as a positive force - on and off the field.
''He handled himself with a lot of class here,'' Showalter said. ''We're very lucky he passed our way. He got some big hits for us.''
The Mariners couldn't be happier to have him, and not just because he came to town with a .340 batting average, a major-league leading 15 homers and 30 RBIs.
''Nelson is a (heck) of a teammate and he's played extremely well,'' manager Lloyd McClendon said. ''He has had a tremendous input on this team, much like he did for the Orioles.''