- LF, OF, RF, CF, DH
- July 1, 1980
- 6' 2"
- 240 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 9-17-2005 with MIL
Cruz was initially signed as a free agent by the New York Mets, and after three years in the Dominican Summer League, they traded him to Oakland for Jorge Velandia on August 30, 2000. He played in the Oakland Athletics system.
The Brewers acquired him from Oakland along with pitcher Justin Lehr in exchange for infielder Keith Ginter on December 16, 2004. Cruz spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons in the Brewers organization with the Double-A Huntsville Stars, Triple-A Nashville Sounds, and briefly in September of 2005, the major league Brewers.
Cruz was acquired by the Rangers from the Milwaukee Brewers on July 28, 2006 along with slugging outfielder Carlos Lee in exchange for Laynce Nix, Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero and minor league pitcher Julian Cordero.
On August 16, 2006, Cruz hit his first grand slam of his career. On September 4, 2006, against the Athletics, Cruz hit an inside-the-park home run in which his bat broke on impact.
In spring training for the 2007 season, Cruz got off to a rough start, but finished strong by hitting three home runs in the final week, including a walk-off home run in the final game of spring training.
Cruz failed to make the major league roster prior to the 2008 season and cleared waivers after being DFA'd because he had exhausted his minor league options. Cruz's contract was purchased from Triple-A Oklahoma by the Rangers on August 25, 2008, after batting .342 with 37 home runs and 99 RBIs; for his efforts, he won the 2008 PCL MVP award.
In July 2009, Cruz was selected as an All-Star as a replacement for injured Torii Hunter (adductor injury). He also participated in the 2009 Home Run Derby, finishing second to Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.
He and teammate Ian Kinsler each hit three home runs in the 2010 AL division series against the Tampa Bay Rays, marking only the second time in Major League history that two teammates each hit three homers in a postseason series of five games or fewer (joining Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who did it in the 1928 World Series).
In Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, Cruz hit a home run in a losing cause against the Champion San Francisco Giants off Tim Lincecum in the 7th inning. Cruz was also the final out in the same series.
In 2011, Cruz and Ian Kinsler became the first two teammates in major league history to homer in each of the first three games in a season, joining Dean Palmer (1992) as the only Texas ballplayers to ever homer in the first three games of the season. Also, in his very next game, Cruz became the third player ever to homer in the first four games of the season, joining Willie Mays and Mark McGwire.
Cruz became the second hitter to hit a home run into the upper deck in right field as a right-handed batter in the history of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The other was hit by former Ranger Chad Curtis, during the 2000 season.
On July 22, he had 8 RBIs in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays; it was Cruz's career high in RBIs.
In 2011, he batted .263 with 29 home runs. He led AL right fielders in range factor for the third straight year (2.29).
On October 10, 2011, Cruz hit a walk-off grand slam in Game Two of the ALCS versus the Detroit Tigers. He became the first player in baseball history to hit a walk-off grand slam in a postseason game. (Robin Ventura of the New York Mets would have been the first, but he never touched home plate after hitting the ball over the fence with the bases loaded to win a 1999 postseason game against the Atlanta Braves. Ventura's hit came to be known as the Grand Slam Single.)
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- Nelson Cruz