CLEVELAND — The Rays were understandably and obviously happy to welcome Nelson Cruz to the team on Friday.
And the veteran slugger acquired Thursday from the Twins did his part to fit right in.
He ran into Ji-Man Choi at the team hotel and said hello to the first of his new teammates. He grabbed a seat next to top prospect Wander Franco during the bus ride from the hotel to the stadium. He hung out by the dugout for most of batting practice, talking to players and staff.
And then he provided quite a welcome gift of his own, homering to right against Cleveland in his second at-bat.
“It was really nice,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Anytime you come over to a new club, you’re going to make a lot of new friends really, really quick with hitting home runs.”
Cruz said he appreciated the opportunity to join a contending team such as the Rays.
“Definitely a great opportunity, something that I was looking for, something that I look for every year,” he said. “To be able to have the chance to be on this type of team, with these type of players, coaching staff, a great group of guys.
“They show they have what it takes to go to the World Series. And I’m really excited to be there and win it all.”
The excitement was reciprocal.
“He looks really good in a Rays uniform. He looks good in all the uniforms he’s worn, but I’m biased to the one he’s got on right now,” Cash said.
“Pretty fitting (he homered). This group was really, really hyped (Thursday), certainly hyped when he walked through the building (Friday). Just the presence about him. The life and the energy in the dugout (Friday) was a little different or a little more excited than usual.”
Cruz got his preferred No. 23, which had been worn by pitching coach Kyle Snyder. Cruz said Rays coaches were joking with him at the All-Star Game that if he got traded to them, he could have the number, which Snyder took when he had to give up No. 44 to C.J. Cron in 2018. But Cruz said he will do the right thing in compensating Snyder, who said again Friday he didn’t want anything.
“I said okay, I should buy a Rolex (watch), that’s the tradition,” Cruz said. “So I guess I have to find a Rolex that he likes.”
Adding Cruz, acquired for pitching prospects Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman, is expected to provide a significant boost to the Rays offense, as evidenced Friday. In addition to the home run, the 41-year-old walked, went from first to third on a single, and scored in the ninth.
Medical matters: Anderson, Archer, Margot
Reliever Nick Anderson, sidelined since spring with an elbow sprain, looked good and felt good after working an inning Friday for the Florida Complex League team in his first game action. The right-hander allowed one hit and struck out two, throwing about 20 pitches. “All was good,” Cash said. “His (velocity) was in line with his live (batting practice) so good to see that he bounced back.” … Reports from Triple-A Durham manager Brady Williams were good on Chris Archer’s solid third rehab outing Thursday, as the right-hander allowed one run over three innings, throwing 30 of 44 pitches for strikes. Archer, out since April with an elbow issue, hit 95 mph with his fastball multiple times. “Very encouraged with his stuff,” Cash said. “He dialed it up when he needed to; the slider was very good.” … Outfielder Manuel Margot (left hamstring) felt good after going 1-for-4 and playing seven innings in rightfield and is expected to play again for Durham on Saturday.
o Drew Rasmussen will start and likely work 2-3 innings as the Rays run a bullpen game Saturday following the trade of scheduled starter Rich Hill. All relievers but Andrew Kittredge and Matt Wisler, who worked two innings each Friday, are likely to be available.
o Reliever Louis Head was called up to take Hill’s roster spot and add an arm to the bullpen.
o The Rays have won their first five games this season, and 10 straight overall, against Cleveland, their third-longest such streak against an opponent.
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