ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Nelson Cruz fit right back in with the Texas Rangers after completing his 50-game drug suspension.
The All-Star slugger was reinstated from the restricted list Monday by the Rangers, who immediately put him in their lineup. Cruz batted sixth as the designated hitter for the AL wild-card tiebreaker game against Tampa Bay.
"I feel really confident right now," Cruz said before the game. "I'm going to enjoy this moment. Happy to be back. Happy to be with my teammates. It's a blessing to see the reception they gave me."
Cruz got a warm ovation from Rangers fans when he was introduced before the game, and again when he came to bat for the first time in the second inning. After swinging late on a couple of fastballs from David Price, Cruz lined out to first base.
It was the first major league game for Cruz since Aug. 4. That was the day before his suspension stemming from Major League Baseball's investigation of the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic, accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Cruz was among 14 players disciplined by MLB this year in the Biogenesis case. Only Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez appealed his suspension.
The return of Cruz came eight weeks to the day he was suspended. He has acknowledged publicly that he made "an error in judgment" in the wake of a gastrointestinal infection that wasn't properly diagnosed over a few months before he reported to spring training in 2012. Cruz lost 40 pounds during that time. He has never offered more specifics.
After serving his penalty, Cruz is ready to move forward and focus on the field.
"I think I've been doing a pretty good job," he said. "Whatever is going outside of baseball, just keep it outside."
Cruz seemed at ease during batting practice, when he hit a few balls over the walls in a session he described as being "OK. It wasn't like great." He was planning to take more cuts in the indoor batting cage.
Rays manager Joe Maddon expressed no issue with Cruz being eligible.
"My job is to get my players ready. He's served his punishment, and he's eligible to play. I can't worry about that. I spend most of my energy on things like the bullpen," Maddon said. "We just played A-Rod at home."