After continuing to dominate the White Sox the way he did a year ago, Twins slugger Nelson Cruz is the first AL player of the week for the abbreviated 60-game MLB season.
Cruz went 7-for-13 (.538) with three homers, two doubles, 10 RBI and a 1.956 OPS in the Twins’ first three games.
Sunday, he became the fourth-oldest player to drive in seven runs in a game, at 40 years and 25 days old. The only ones older to do it were Stan Musial, Reggie Jackson and Jason Giambi. Cruz also is the second-oldest player to have four extra-base hits in a game since 1901, behind Rickey Henderson.
Cruz earned player of the week honors for the seventh time in his career. He also earned the award last year, and it came after a series in which he shredded the White Sox. Since joining the Twins, Cruz has hit .452 (33-for-73) with 11 home runs, 34 RBI, 20 runs, seven doubles and 12 walks in 19 games vs. Chicago.
He entered Monday leading the major leagues in hits, homers, RBI, OPS and total bases.
Max Kepler and Jake Cave played in the same outfield 27 times last year as part of realignments while Byron Buxton was recovering from injuries. In 24 of those games, Kepler was in center field with Cave manning one of the corner spots, usually right.
But twice this season, Cave has started in center with Kepler in right, including Sunday’s game.
Manager Rocco Baldelli said several factors will go into how he uses Cave and Kepler as a defensive pairing, including the pitcher, who else is in the defensive lineup and how they are feeling physically.
“And also, we’ve also looked into some of the ways we look at our outfield play and positioning and things like that, and we think there are ways that we can benefit from mixing these guys up at different times,” Baldelli said. “It does not come down to one particular thing that we can point to and say, ‘This is why we’re doing it.’ It comes down to probably five or six factors.”
All of this might not mean much once Buxton fully recovers from his left mid-foot sprain and enters the lineup. But Cave will be prepared whenever he’s needed. And maybe he will provide some pop, like he did on Sunday with his first-inning grand slam that sparked a 14-2 rout.
“It might be different tomorrow. It might be the same tomorrow,” Cave said. “But either way, I’m coming to the field, get the body ready, do everything I can to try to stay healthy, get my swings in, run, do whatever I’ve got to do defensively in. That’s all you can really control. You never know when Rocco is going to put you in there. So I just try to stay ready for everything.”