ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 31: Nelson Cruz #17 of the Texas Rangers hits a solo homerun against the Los Angeles Angels at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 31, 2013 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
There's no question that the PED suspension laid down on Nelson Cruz was a big hit to the Texas Rangers' offensive production, and there's no doubt the Rangers were and still are disappointed in Cruz's decision to use PEDs.
But there is also no doubt that the Rangers need Cruz in their lineup nor are there any doubts that his Rangers teammates would give anything to have him back in the lineup right about now.
Cruz played his final game of the 2013 regular season with the Rangers back on Aug. 4 in a 4-0 win over Oakland, when Texas took two of three games at O.co. Coliseum in a series that Cruz played a big part in at the plate. When he left the Rangers to serve the 50-game penalty, he did so hitting .269 with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs and had taken quite nicely to hitting in the 3-hole in the Rangers' lineup.
Cruz is currently working out in Arizona with the Rangers' Instructional League team and can play in those games. He's eligible to return for the postseason, which would include the AL Wild Card Game on Oct. 2, if that's what it comes down to for the Rangers.
It's hard to fathom starting a guy that hasn't played since Aug. 4 and hasn't faced big-league pitching since then either in a one-game playoff with the season on the line, but it's also hard to imagine leaving Cruz on the bench as he could easily serve as the team's designated hitter while Alex Rios mans right field.
After the Rangers roared through August there was was talk that maybe their offense didn't miss Cruz all that much, but now we've seen that was fool's gold. Adrian Beltre is slumping, partly because he has no protection in the lineup, which Cruz would provide. No disrespect to Rios, but Cruz strikes fear into opposing pitcher, especially in the postseason, where he's made his biggest impact over the course of his career. Rios doesn't do that.
When the Cruz suspension was handed down, Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said it would be up the Rangers players to decide if Cruz would be welcomed back in October, and several players, including clubhouse leader Ian Kinsler, came out and said they would welcome Cruz back with open arms.
So you can fully expect Cruz to be the Rangers' DH and hitting fifth or sixth in the lineup if and when the Rangers open their postseason.