ANAHEIM -- Rangers players made it clear on Monday afternoon: If they make the playoffs, they want suspended outfielder Nelson Cruz with them.
"It's a non-factor in my eyes ... we'll welcome him back," second baseman Ian Kinsler said.
"Totally welcome," reliever Joe Nathan said.
"He has been an incredible teammate, he's one of my favorite teammates," outfielder David Murphy said. "Yes, he made a mistake. We don't agree with what he did, but we all make mistakes. It's not hard to say, we're going to stand behind him. I can only imagine what he's going through. It has to be a difficult time for him and his family. But we all love him and will continue to support him."
Murphy was the first one to speak after Cruz addressed the team in an emotionally charged meeting Monday afternoon. Cruz spoke to his teammates after Major League Baseball announced that he had been suspended 50 games for violations of the Basic Agreement and its Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment policy.
Cruz explained to his teammates what happened and apologized for his actions. When he was finished, other players spoke up in support. Murphy spoke of Cruz's character and what he has meant to the Rangers. Others echoed similar sentiments.
"That's the love we have inside our clubhouse," manager Ron Washington said. "I wouldn't expect it any other way. This club is uniquely constructed because of the love they have for each other and the game of baseball."
"It was a really emotional talk," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "He's part of our family. I've known him since he has been here. He's always had my back and talked to me during bad times. We love him. It was tough as a man to stand up in front of everybody and talk for real. You can see how tough it is for him and his family.
"At that moment, you're not a player, you're a human being. Nobody is perfect and nobody has the power to judge. The main thing is to support him. I love him like a brother."
Said catcher A.J. Pierzynski, "People around here really respect Nellie for the way he goes about his business. He was very remorseful and sad. He did not make excuses. He said he made a mistake. We're all men here. We all have to live with the consequences. It's a shame it happened, but we'll get through it."
Washington said no players expressed any anger directed at Cruz for being suspended. There was also no anger expressed over Cruz deciding not to appeal the suspension. If Cruz had filed an appeal, he would have still been able to play until the case was heard by an arbitrator.
"I read or heard something about us being angry," pitcher Derek Holland said. "That's not true. We love the guy. That's got to stop. We love him and we're behind him."
"I'm not angry with him at all, he's a good friend," outfielder Craig Gentry said. "Everybody makes mistakes. It's just one of those things. I feel sorry for him because he definitely wants to play and be a part of this ballclub."
RULES FOR SUSPENDED PLAYERS
|What they can't do:|
|Cannot receive pay|
|Cannot participate in Arizona Fall League|
|Cannot participate in Postseason games|
|Cannot be elected or selected to the All-Star Game (if player is suspended during the offseason, Spring Training, or championship season prior to the All-Star Game)|
|What they can do:|
|Can participate in Spring Training and extended spring training|
|Can participate in affiliated Winter League games|
|Can work out with the club|
|Can participate in batting practice before the gates open before a game|
|Can consent to an assignment to a Minor League affiliate for a period of time prescribed under Section 7.H.2 of the Joint Drug Program|
Cruz is eligible to be on the postseason roster if the Rangers make the playoffs. General manager Jon Daniels said one factor in making that decision is how Cruz is accepted by his teammates. The Giants didn't bring All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera back for the playoffs last year after he was suspended for 50 games.
The Rangers feel differently about Cruz.
"It's disappointing but we all love Nellie," Kinsler said. "But at the same time we all love Nellie and we're going to support him through this. He's going to serve his suspension and we'll welcome him back."
MLB on Monday suspended 13 players as a result of the league's Biogenesis investigation. Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez received the stiffest penalty -- a 211-game ban without pay through the end of the 2014 regular season. Rodriguez, 38, has appealed the suspension, which is to begin Thursday. His case will be heard by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz.
Rodriguez's discipline, MLB said in its written announcement, is based on his use and possession of numerous forms of prohibited performance-enhancing substances, including testosterone and human growth hormone, over the course of multiple years. Rodriguez's discipline under the basic agreement is for attempting to cover up his violations of the program by engaging in a course of conduct intended to "obstruct and frustrate" the investigation.
Cruz was among those who accepted their 50-game suspensions. The others were Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta, Mariners catcher Jesus Montero, Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli, Phillies reliever Antonio Bastardo and recently demoted Mets utility man Jordany Valdespin. Minor Leaguers Fernando Martinez, Jordan Norberto, Fautino De Los Santos, Cesar Puello and Sergio Escalona were also suspended.
Cruz is hitting .269 and leading the club with 27 home runs and 76 RBIs. With him gone, the Rangers called up outfielders Engel Beltre and Joey Butler from Triple-A while designating infielder Adam Rosales for assignment. Murphy took Cruz's spot in right field on Monday night with Beltre starting in left field. Butler will see playing time against left-handers, but the Rangers, who entered Monday trailing the A's by 2 1/2 games in the American League West, know their offense will not be the same without Cruz.
"We realize we are going to miss him and we understand that, but at the same time we have a job to do," Nathan said. "We are playing good baseball right now and we got to do what we've been talking about and put this behind us, let the schedule play out."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less