It was a great night for the Dutch in San Juan last night, a bad night for Nelson Cruz and the Dominicans, and, probably, a pretty good night for Rangers fans. The loss was the Dominican Republics’ second at the hands of the Dutch, sending them home early in a mind-blowing upset.
The Dutch came back from down one in the bottom of the eleventh inning, with Eugene Kingsdale driving in the tying run, and scoring the game winner on an error by Dominican first baseman Willy Aybar -- game over, the Dutch win 2-1 in extra innings.
It should be stated overtly and clearly that this is an upset of biblical proportions; namely, the biggest star on the Netherlands
team is either the corpulent malcontent of an ex-Ranger, Sidney Ponson, or Marlins starter Rick “The Incredible Hurk” VandenHurk. This is kind of a toss-up, which makes their victory over the loaded Dominican Republic
team kind of unbelievable.
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But for our purposes, the greatest manifestation of this upset will be Nelson Cruz’s return to Surprise, Ariz.
Cruz has shunted between Triple-A Frisco and the Rangers for a couple of years, raking minor league pitching and showing great promise on the Major League
level. The organization believes 2009 will be the breakout season for the 28 year old; he is slated to hit in the clean-up spot against lefties and start in right field coming out of spring training.
Cruz hit .272 in the Dominican Republic’s three WBC games, providing a home run during their only victory, a 9-0 affair against Panama. He is one of three Rangers playing in the WBC, along with Frank Catalanotto for Italy and Max Ramirez for Venezuela.
The experience, namely facing the best pitching the planet earth has to offer, should help Cruz’s development. But then again, so will getting more reps under batting coach Rudy Jaramillo.
When Cruz left camp to join the Dominican team at the beginning of March, there was a chance that he would miss up to three and a half weeks playing for his country. Thanks to the Netherlands, he will return in less than half that time.
This is a good thing for a young ballplayer on the precipice of what should be a breakout season. With three weeks until opening day, Cruz should have ample time to get back into the swing of things with the Rangers, and prepare further for his first full season in the show.