BALTIMORE -- Nelson Cruz will enter play Saturday with 25 home runs, tied for the lead in the Majors, and 66 RBIs, tops in the Majors. Cruz is also tops in American League All-Star voting for designated hitter, according to the latest tally.
Not bad for a guy who was still without a job when Spring Training was already underway.
"You always feel like you have something to prove, but it's mostly for myself," Cruz said earlier this month. "I don't feel like I have to do well to prove anybody wrong."
Cruz signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Orioles on Feb. 24, after turning down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Rangers earlier in the offseason. But based on his play during the first half of the 2014 campaign, Cruz will likely cash in next winter.
Cruz's power has been especially beneficial to an Orioles lineup that has seen its home run totals drop throughout the lineup from last season.
A year after Chris Davis hit 37 home runs by the All-Star break, the Orioles' first baseman enters play Saturday with 13 home runs in 2014. Shortstop J.J. Hardy has one home run this season after going deep 25 times in 2013, and catcher Matt Wieters, who hit at least 22 home runs in each of the previous three years, had five home runs in 2014 before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery.
Cruz's 25 home runs so far this season are already the fourth-most in franchise history before the All-Star break. Only Davis (37 in 2013), Brady Anderson (30 in '96) and Rafael Palmeiro (26 in '98) have hit more home runs before the break, and all three went on to represent the O's at the All-Star Game.
Fans can cast their votes for starters at MLB.com -- online or on a mobile device -- using the 2014 All-Star Game MLB.com Ballot Sponsored by Experian until Thursday, July 3, at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2014 All-Star Game will be played at Target Field on Tuesday, July 15 on FOX.
Ben Raby is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less