Nelson Cruz on Chris Davis' 25-game suspension: 'I've gone through it'

  • Chris Davis, left, congratulates teammate Nelson Cruz at home plate after his three-run homer in the fifth inning of a May loss to Detroit.
Chris Davis, left, congratulates teammate Nelson Cruz at home… (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore…)
September 13, 2014|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

When Nelson Cruz was first introduced as an Oriole at a February news conference in Sarasota, Fla., eight of his new teammates attended to show support. It meant the world to Cruz, who was coming off a 2013 season in which he was suspended 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancing-drug scandal.

One of those eight was Chris Davis, the club's 2013 Most Valuable Oriole and an outspoken opponent of PED users.

Seven months later, Davis has been suspended 25 games for testing positive for the amphetamine Adderall. And Cruz wants to extend the same courtesy.

"We are family here, we are teammates," said Cruz, who also played on the Texas Rangers with Davis from 2008 to 2011. "Whatever is going on with one of my teammates is going on to me, too. We have his back with whatever has gone on. And when he comes back."

Cruz said he sent a supportive text message to Davis on Friday after he learned of the suspension. He declined to specify what it said.

"Just private stuff," Cruz said.

Although the circumstances of their bans are different — Cruz's suspension was for PEDs and twice as long as what Davis will serve for using amphetamines — Cruz acknowledged that he thought about his own experience last year when he heard the news Friday.

"No doubt. It's not the same, but I've gone through it," Cruz said. "I mean, it's sad, you know? You don't want to see nobody go through this. The only thing I can do is support him."

Cruz served his suspension from Aug. 4 until the final day of the regular season, Sept. 29. He came back Sept. 30 for Game 163, a regular-season play-in contest between the Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays in Arlington. Cruz went hitless in four at-bats as the Rangers lost, failing to make the playoffs for the first time in four years.

He said he wasn't worried about how fans would react when he returned last year, and he indeed received a loud ovation from the Rangers' crowd in his first game back. It was the waiting and watching that was the real challenge.

"As a player, you want to help your team. And so, to be out of the lineup for that many games, it's miserable," Cruz said. "Especially to see your team trying to go to the playoffs. So I was excited then for that opportunity. I was looking for that."

Davis, who has not responded to multiple requests for comment, won't be able to return to the Orioles until the American League Championship Series, at the earliest. If he were included on the club's playoff roster, the Orioles would have to play a man short for several ALCS games, until Davis can be activated. The Orioles have been noncommittal about what they would do with Davis in that scenario.

"He's currently a real prominent member of this team who has done a nice job for us," executive vice president Dan Duquette said Saturday afternoon. "Unfortunately, he's not going to be with us for [22] more games."

Cruz said he believes Davis' absence will be felt on the field, similar to when the club lost catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado to season-ending injuries this year.

"We are going to miss him. We missed Wieters, we missed Manny. At one point, we've missed all three, but we've done good," Cruz said. "I feel we keep bringing pieces that help us along the way. And hopefully, when [Davis] has a chance to come back from suspension, he can help us."

Cruz, meanwhile, said he has been impressed with fill-ins such as Caleb Joseph, Alejandro De Aza and Jimmy Paredes.

"Every day, it is somebody new. If you want to go a long way, you need to have the type of players that contribute on different days in different situations," said Cruz, who made it to the World Series with the Rangers in 2010 and 2011. "Nine guys are not going to take you there; you need all 25. And so far, all year long, we have been doing it like that."

As for the long-term effect the suspension will have on Davis, Cruz isn't overly concerned. Cruz's Biogenesis-related suspension likely hampered his ability to land a multiyear deal last offseason, and he settled for a one-year, $8 million contract with the Orioles. He'll be a free agent again this offseason and is expected to command a significant deal. He has 39 homers so far this year with the Orioles.

Davis has been stuck in a season-long skid, but he's not a free agent until after 2015, giving him plenty of time to re-establish his relationship with Orioles fans. And no such repair work with his teammates is really necessary, Cruz believes.

"I cannot tell you what's going happen [with the public]. But from my side, my teammates, we are going to support him," Cruz said. "He'll be fine. You don't want to be in that situation. You want to have the smoothest career as you can. But at the same time, that's part of life. Everybody makes mistakes."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

twitter.com/danconnollysun

Baltimore Sun staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

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