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.