SEATTLE – Nelson Cruz’s schedule is packed during his only visit to his old home this weekend. On Friday alone, he visited Chief Sealth International High School, where he awarded college scholarships to deserving students, then ushered a young boy around the Twins’ clubhouse and even in the outfield during batting practice for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The only thing missing from his Welcome Home Weekend is baseball.
The Twins, hopeful of having their designated hitter in the lineup this weekend against the Mariners’ lefthanded starters, reversed course on Friday and placed Cruz on the injured list, sidelining him until at least next Friday. Cruz’s left wrist is still sore, and the Twins chose not to take any chances with it.
The decision wasn’t an easy one, manager Rocco Baldelli said, but made sense given that there are still 119 games left in the season.
“Of course we were hoping to avoid it. But just to be sure, just to make sure that it’s not bothering him going forward, we decided to make a move,” Baldelli said. The Twins plan to activate him when the team returns home in a week, “if he’s doing fine, which we anticipate he’s going to be.”
Cruz said his wrist has improved, and it won’t take a week to heal, but he recognizes that the move makes sense — even if it robs him of a welcome-home standing ovation during his first at-bat in his old home park.
“You know how many games you’re going to play and how much pain you can handle. We’re in the race, so adrenaline kicks in and you don’t feel the pain much,” Cruz said. “But it’s early. It’s hard to stay [in the lineup] through the year with the pain.”
The Twins discussed the move with Cruz before making it official, and Baldelli said he appreciated the consultation. “In some ways, it’s almost like talking to another staff member,” Baldelli said. “The guy has tremendous feel for what’s going on with his own body, with what’s going on with this team. … He totally realizes that it makes sense.”
But it won’t slow Cruz down this weekend. He said his afternoon at Chief Sealth High, a Seattle public school that partnered with his Boomstick23 Foundation, was particularly rewarding. Cruz began working with students there two years ago, work that was cited when he was nominated by the Mariners for the Roberto Clemente Award.
“You try to find a way to help the community. We picked that school because it was one of the one’s that needed the most,” said Cruz, who addressed students and handed out college scholarships. “We connected with them.”
He did the same with Joseph, a young Seattle cancer patient whose wish to meet the former Mariners’ slugger was fulfilled in a big way. Cruz introduced him to his teammates, and several Mariners, including coach Ichiro Suzuki, presented him with a Twins jersey and cap, and gave him a tour of the clubhouse. During batting practice, the pair caught fly balls together.
For that sort of community involvement, not to mention the 163 homers he hit during his four years in Seattle, the Mariners played a tribute video on their scoreboard after the first inning of Thursday’s game. As many in the crowd stood and applauded, Cruz raised his cap in thanks from the dugout, the closest he’ll come to the batter’s box this weekend.
“It was pretty cool. I was expecting love, you know?” Cruz said. “But it’s totally different when you [get] it. It was something that touched me.”