Washington Post writer Jesse Dougherty offered an anecdote on Twitter yesterday about how Juan Soto expressed interest in potentially playing with 41-year-old, 17-year veteran Nelson Cruz, leading Washington Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo to tell his 23-year-old outfielder to give Cruz a call and see if it helped recruit the free agent designated hitter to D.C.
“[I told him] that we’re a really good group, that we stick together, that we’re going through everything together,” Soto said, as quoted by the WaPost’s Dougherty after Cruz signed on.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re going good or bad — we try to not be selfish. He was the same way. He said he was on the same page.”
Soto wasn’t the only one who reached out to Cruz.
Assistant GM and VP of International Operations Johnny DiPuglia called too, and did what he could to convince Cruz to sign on with the Nationals.
He agreed on what is reportedly a 1-year/$15M deal with the club earlier this week.
“First of all,” Cruz said, when he met with the D.C. press corps for the first time on Thursday afternoon, “... you have to thank the Nationals for making me part of this great organization, great culture, and I feel like talking to Soto days before I signed, Johnny called me a few times, and I believed it was the right call.”
Soto’s message when he called his fellow Dominican-born big leaguer?
“‘Come here, let’s do something special, let’s win,’” Cruz said.
“So, no doubt he’s one of the best hitters in baseball, and also a Dominican guy, that all the Dominicans love, and I believe what we have as a team is pretty good.”
How did he make the decision to join a club that kicked off an organizational reboot at the trade deadline late last July?
“They said they need a guy like me in the lineup, you know,” Cruz shared.
“Also the same way with Soto, he mentioned it was going to be good to hit in front of him or behind him, so it was basically that’s it.”
As someone who’s had a long, successful career in the majors, what does he see from Soto when he watches the Nationals’ young star?
“He’s pretty mature,” Cruz said.
“He understands the strike zone pretty well. He knows when and how to make damage, you know. It’s very impressive to see him on a daily basis. It’s going to be fun to be behind him or in front of him and see him hitting also, and hopefully the only thing that can stop him is injury, hopefully he can stay healthy and do what he’s supposed to do in the future for us.”
How has Cruz, who’s averaged 39 homers per 162 games in his career, and averaged 131 games played per year since his first full season in 2009, stayed healthy and on the field over the years?
“I guess I know my body well enough,” Cruz said.
“I find routines, I find a way to first and most important, stay on the field, that’s how you can get production, and trust the work that I put in every day. I rest a lot, take a lot of naps too.
“That’s a good tip.”
We've never related to a player more. pic.twitter.com/ib4yrZ3wdO— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) March 17, 2022
Cruz also had a tip for one of his new teammates, Erick Fedde, who threw to the Nats’ new addition during live BP on Thursday.
He saw something from the Nats’ 2014 1st Rounder that he thought might help him going forward.
“I was trying to help him out,” Cruz explained. “I saw something — before he threw me the last pitch — that I realized right away what was the pitch that was coming, even before he pitched, so I was just telling him make sure you do this the right way, don’t change your — I guess, your pattern, the way you grab the ball and all this stuff.”
“He’s facing Fedde,” Cruz’s new manager, Davey Martinez, said on Thursday, “... and he’s standing out there and then Fedde, after his first inning, he goes out there and has a conversation with him about what he’s seeing and what he saw, and that’s what he’s going to bring, especially to our younger guys. But he’s a tremendous guy, I told him, I said, ‘Hey, it’s just a testament to who you are, and having such a long career, the way that you go about your business, your routine.’ I mean, he’s — I’m telling all young guys, ‘Hey, watch him.’ Because he’s got an impeccable routine, he does it every day, and he’s going to be good for our young kids.”
“It’s going to be really good to have him around,” Martinez added, “... because he does pay attention to details like that and he’s been doing it for many, many years.”