There was a report Tuesday that Nelson Cruz wouldn't make it back to the Rangers until the final week of the season.
That report didn't come from Cruz or the Rangers, but seemed pretty believable thanks to the fact that Cruz can't seem to go more than a month without pulling one muscle or another in his legs. Pushing his return back as far as possible makes it more likely that he'll be on the field for the entire playoff run and that his next hamstring attack will come from rushing to the bar for a pina colada on his winter vacation.
Cruz spoke later in the day, however, and gave a more optimistic report about the timeframe for his return. He took batting practice and ran hard on a treadmill during the day and proclaimed himself right on schedule for the fastest possible return to action.
"I feel good," said Cruz, who is in the middle of another stint on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. "I should be ready to go when I come off [the DL] next Tuesday."
All kidding aside about the ticking time bomb that are Cruz's hamstrings, his return is obviously a good thing for the Rangers. They can't really worry about him staying healthy during October when they haven't yet punched their ticket for that month. Cruz's bat should help them hold off the Angels, especially if he is able to hit the ground running thanks to a rehab stint.
Usually those rehab stints are designed to help the player, but this is the rare one that might wind up helping the minor league team even more. Four of the Rangers' affiliates are in the playoffs and it is safe to say that none of them have a Cruz-type bat in the middle of their order. It's not exactly the most sporting way to win a title, but it would probably feel just as sweet as if you did it without a major league slugger stepping in for a couple of games.
The Rangers obviously hope that isn't the only postseason action Cruz winds up seeing this year, but the outfielder's inability to play a full season is definitely part of the reason that their own October plans are still in doubt.