"It's the threat ... it's the presence," Washington said. "It's what he does for everybody in the lineup."
Cruz was playing right field and batting third before he was suspended. But Alex Rios has taken over both of those spots. Craig Gentry started in left field with left-hander David Price on the mound, giving the Rangers their best defensive outfield with Leonys Martin in center and Rios in right.
"The way those three are running down balls, I'm not going to change that," Washington said.
Cruz hasn't played in a Major League game since Aug. 4. He did play eight games in the instructional league, mainly against Minor League prospects. He was 9-for-27 with five doubles and a home run.
"I'm just going to come in and do my job," Cruz said. "Play hard and make sure I give it everything I have, so I'm hoping for the best. As soon as the game starts, I've been learning to block everything that's going on to the side. It's going to be a good test. Hopefully, I can do the same thing today."
Cruz was hitting .269 with 27 home runs, 76 RBIs and a .511 slugging percentage at the time of his suspension.
"I have been in the game long enough to know not to expect the Nellie we had before," Washington said. "But if they throw one in the wrong spot, I'm going to be jumping up and down."
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.