Rangers star Cruz says he made ‘error in judgment’

Nelson Cruz stood up in Texas’ clubhouse and apologized to the
Rangers, telling them why he accepted a 50-game suspension from
Major League Baseball rather than appeal and try to stay on the
field.

”It’s disappointing, but at the same time, we all love Nelson,
and we’re going to support him through this,” second baseman Ian
Kinsler said. ”He’s serving the suspension like he should, and
we’re going to help him go on with this.”

While teammates wouldn’t discuss specifically what Cruz told
them, they uniformly expressed support for their top slugger who
will miss the rest of the regular season for the playoff-contending
Rangers.

Cruz was among 13 players disciplined Monday by Major League
Baseball for their relationship to Biogenesis of America, a closed
anti-aging clinic in Florida accused of distributing banned
performing-enhancing drugs.

The All-Star right fielder didn’t speak publicly, but
acknowledged in a statement that he made ”an error in judgment”
in the wake of a gastrointestinal infection from November 2011
through January 2012. He said the illness wasn’t properly diagnosed
at first and he lost 40 pounds before getting proper treatment.

”Just weeks before I was to report to spring training in 2012,
I was unsure whether I would be physically able to play,” Cruz
said. ”Faced with this situation, I made an error in judgment that
I deeply regret, and I accept full responsibility for that error. I
should have handled the situation differently, and my illness was
no excuse.”

He provided no other specifics, including what he might have
taken.

That happened around the same time the Rangers were fresh off
their second consecutive World Series appearance, and Cruz signed a
$16 million, two-year contract to avoid salary arbitration. He was
MVP of the 2011 AL championship series.

The 50-game suspension corresponds with the last 50 games of the
regular season for Texas, which is trying to get into the playoffs
for the fourth consecutive year. The 33-year-old Cruz, who can be a
free agent after this season, would be eligible to play in the
postseason if the Rangers make it.

The suspension will cost Cruz $2,732,240 in salary for the rest
of this season and the possibility of earning another $500,000 in
potential performance bonuses based on plate appearances that are
no longer attainable.

General manager Jon Daniels said the team would be
”open-minded” to Cruz returning for the playoffs.

”Assuming that there’s no other information that we’re not yet
aware of and if his teammates welcome him back, and Nellie handles
this well, which I expect he probably will, then we’re open to
it,” Daniels said.

Manager Ron Washington said Cruz would ”unequivocally” be
accepted back for the playoffs by his teammates.

”That’s the love we’ve got in that clubhouse,” said
Washington, who described the day as emotional. ”That don’t mean
that they’ve accepted it, but I wouldn’t expect anything
else.”

Cruz is batting .269 with a team-high 27 home runs and 76 RBIs
in 108 games this season. He homered three times in his last seven
games, when the Rangers went 6-1 to cut their deficit behind AL
West-leading Oakland from six games to 2 1/2 games.

”It goes without saying we’re not going to replace Nelson’s
production with any one player, whether that’s internally or via a
trade,” Daniels said on a conference call. ”We’re going to be
creative”

Daniels also reiterated a statement issued earlier by the team
expressing its disappointment in Cruz for violating MLB’s drug
policy and its full support of ”efforts to eliminate
performance-enhancing substances from our game.”

The non-waiver trade deadline passed last week without the
Rangers being able to add a right-handed hitter to potentially help
fill his absence.

The Rangers recalled outfielder Engel Beltre from Triple-A Round
Rock and selected the contract of outfielder Joey Butler from the
same team. They also designated infielder Adam Rosales for
assignment, three days after adding him on a waiver claim from
Oakland.

David Murphy took Cruz’s regular spot in right field Monday
night in the series opener against the Los Angeles Angels.
Washington is considering a four-person platoon to fill the
outfield – with Beltre and Murphy in against right-handed pitchers,
while Gentry and Butler, who is looking to make his major league
debut, would play against lefties.

Cruz had never been linked to performance-ending drugs before he
was among the players targeted by MLB in a scandal that started
last January with a Miami New Times story about Biogenesis.

After his name showed up in that report, attorneys for Cruz
issued a statement denying the allegations. When Cruz arrived at
spring training in February he said it was ”shocking” and
”depressing” to have his name connected with Biogenesis.

In his statement Monday, Cruz expressed thanks ”for the
unwavering support of my family, friends, and teammates during this
difficult time. I look forward to regaining the trust and respect
of the Rangers organization, my teammates, and the great Rangers’
fans, and I am grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the team for
the playoffs.”

Cruz has replaced agents Sam and Seth Levinson with Adam Katz,
the representative Daniels said contacted him Sunday night with the
player’s decision to accept the penalty.

The Rangers got Cruz in a six-player deal with Carlos Lee from
Milwaukee in July 2006. Cruz’s first full major league season was
2009, when he was an All-Star and hit a career-high 33 homers.

”It’s sad. You obviously didn’t expect anything like that to
happen, but nobody is perfect,” said Derek Holland, the team’s
union rep. ”Everybody makes a mistake, and once he gets back,
we’ll be waiting for him. We’ve just got to take care of what we’ve
got to do now, and that’s go get the West.”

AP Sports Writers Greg Beacham in Anaheim, Calif., and Schuyler
Dixon in Oxnard, Calif., contributed to this report.