Cruz accepts 50-game suspension
Rangers outfielder one of 13 players disciplined as part of Biogenesis investigation
ANAHEIM -- The Rangers will be without Nelson Cruz for the rest of the regular season after he accepted a 50-game suspension on Monday by Major League Baseball for violation of the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program.
Cruz has decided not to appeal, and the suspension began immediately. Cruz would be eligible for the postseason if the Rangers make the playoffs. General manager Jon Daniels was noncommittal toward that possibility.
"We're open minded to that," Daniels said of Cruz being added to the postseason roster. "We really want to see how this plays out, most importantly with his teammates. Not giving specifics, but there have been other scenarios where because of how it was handled, the player was not welcomed back first and foremost within the clubhouse.
"That's something we want to see. Assuming that there's not any other information that we're not yet aware of and if his teammates welcome him back and Nellie handles this well, which I expect he probably will, then we're open to it."
MLB on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season. Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz.
Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the basic agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
The other players who were handed 50-game suspensions include Cruz, Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utilityman Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino de los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
The Rangers called up outfielders Joey Butler and Engel Beltre from Triple-A Round Rock to help replace Cruz. The Rangers were expected to make another roster move before Monday night's game, but they did not view Manny Ramirez as a legitimate option at this point, and he remained at Round Rock.
"It goes without saying we're not going to replace Nelson's production with any one player, whether that's internally or via a trade," Daniels said. "We're going to get creative and talking to [manager Ron] Washington and the staff to utilize platoons, improve defense and look just to get the best out of our full 25-man roster.
"It's a challenge for us with Nelson's history of production and the year he's having, but this club has never shied away from a challenge before. It's got a track record of success, and we believe in this team. We believe in the guys on the club, our pitching staff, our athleticism and the leadership. We have every expectation to continue to win and make it to the playoffs in spite of this situation."
Cruz, who was acquired from the Brewers on July 28, 2006, is hitting .269 and leading the Rangers with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs.
"We're disappointed that he violated the Drug Policy, and that he now has to deal with that," Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan said. "When you lose a player of Nelson's magnitude and what he means in our lineup, the chances of replacing someone at this late stage of Nelson's ability is awfully slim."
RULES FOR SUSPENDED PLAYERS
|What they can't do:|
|Cannot receive pay|
|Cannot participate in Arizona Fall League|
|Cannot participate in Postseason games|
|Cannot be elected or selected to the All-Star Game (if player is suspended during the offseason, Spring Training, or championship season prior to the All-Star Game)|
|What they can do:|
|Can participate in Spring Training and extended spring training|
|Can participate in affiliated Winter League games|
|Can work out with the club|
|Can participate in batting practice before the gates open before a game|
|Can consent to an assignment to a Minor League affiliate for a period of time prescribed under Section 7.H.2 of the Joint Drug Program|
Cruz was unavailable to the media on Monday, but he released a statement through his attorney and said the stomach virus he suffered through after the 2011 season led him to using the banned substance.
"From November 2011 to January 2012, I was seriously ill with a gastrointestinal infection, helicobacter pylori, which went undiagnosed for over a month," Cruz said. "By the time I was properly diagnosed and treated, I had lost 40 pounds. Just weeks before I was to report to Spring Training in 2012, I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play.
"Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was no excuse. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect of the Rangers organization, my teammates, and the great Rangers' fans, and I am grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team for the playoffs."
Cruz was suspended six months after his name appeared in a Miami New Times newspaper report that linked him to Biogensis. The now-shuttered Miami clinic allegedly distributed performance-enhancing drugs to a number of Major League players, including Cruz.
According to the report, Cruz bought $4,000 worth of products from Biogenesis. The report also said Biogenesis owner Anthony Bosch wrote in a 2012 private journal concerning Cruz that: "Need to call him, go Thur to Texas, take meds from April 5-May 5, will owe him troches and … and will infuse them in May."
Troches are lozenges that introduce synthetic testosterone into a player's body. They cycle in and out of the body quickly, so they are likely undetectable unless a drug test is given soon after the drug is used.
Daniels said he spoke with Cruz several times in the last 10 days. Daniels said he wasn't trying to influence Cruz, only to learn if he would appeal the suspension. Cruz's agent, Adam Katz, informed the Rangers of his decision last night. Daniels said the Rangers weren't "blindsided" by the decision.
"I wouldn't use that term," Daniels said. "We've known for some time he had a decision to make. It wouldn't have surprised us either way. We knew he was weighing things heavily. We didn't find this out until last night, but that's different from being blindsided."
The Rangers pursued the possibility of acquiring an outfielder right up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Rangers did so knowing there was a possibility Cruz could be suspended, but they were unable to make a trade.
"It is what it is," Daniels said. "We knew this was out there. There's not a lot we could do about it. I'm not sure had he made up his mind any sooner, it would've impacted much anyhow."
Cruz, who was in Anaheim with the team on Monday morning, will return to Texas. At some point, he will meet with the Rangers to determine how he will serve the suspension. He can work out at the Ballpark in Arlington but can't be on the field in uniform once the gates are open to the fans. The other options would be for him to work out at the Rangers' facilities in Surprise, Ariz., or the Dominican Republic.
Cruz is a free agent at the end of the season, and Daniels was also noncommittal about the possibility of the Rangers re-signing him this offseason.
"We're not ruling anything out," Daniels said. "We'll see how this plays out. One step at a time. We're not there yet."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.