April 11, 2014 in Sports

Fans lay out welcome mat

Associated Press
By the numbers

14: Consecutive games lost by the White Sox to the Indians before prevailing 7-3.

17: Strikeouts for Nationals pitchers in a 7-1 victory over the Marlins.

Nelson Cruz was branded a cheater and punished accordingly. As he waited to be introduced on his first opening day in Baltimore, the former All-Star wondered how Orioles fans would react in the aftermath of the 50-game suspension he received last year for using performance-enhancing drugs.

“As a new player, you don’t know what to expect,” Cruz said. “You hope for the best.”

He couldn’t have asked for more. The sellout crowd collectively yelled, “Cruuuuuuze!” as the slugger ran across the orange carpet, and after Cruz hit the tiebreaking home run to propel Baltimore past the defending champion Boston Red Sox, the chant was even louder.

“It was very, very nice to have that kind of reception,” Cruz said.

Cruz, Ryan Braun and Jhonny Peralta each served hefty suspensions in 2013 for violations of baseball’s drug agreement following the sport’s investigation of Biogenesis of America, a now-defunct rejuvenation clinic. At home games, it seems all is forgiven. On the road, opposing fans won’t let them forget.

Braun responded to jeering Philadelphia fans Tuesday by hitting three homers and driving in seven runs.

“All I can do is focus on things I can control,” Braun said.

Aided by the support of his new teammates, Cruz easily transitioned into the next stage of his career after leaving the Texas Rangers for Baltimore.

“It was a hard decision. You had a chance to be in one place for a long time,” Cruz said. “But I made the right call. I’m happy I made it.”

Braun, who stayed with Milwaukee after a 65-game suspension, was cheered by Brewers fans at the home opener and jeered later that week in Boston. Peralta, now with St. Louis after serving a 50-game suspension with Detroit, heard boos in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh before getting a warm reception from Cardinals fans in his home debut Monday.

“When we’re playing Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, fans are going to talk no matter what,” Peralta said. “But I don’t try to pay attention to people when they say a lot of stuff. I try to play the game and try to forget about the past.”

That’s what’s great about baseball, Cruz said.

“What you do in the past is over, whether you have good or bad moments,” he said.

Rangers’ minor leaguer suspended

A minor league pitcher for the Texas Rangers has been suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

The commissioner’s office says Double-A lefty Martire Garcia was penalized for testing positive for the banned female fertility drug Clomiphene.

Garcia was the 22nd player suspended this year under the minor league drug program.

Beltre to rest strained quadriceps

Adrian Beltre has a mild left quadriceps strain that will keep him out of the lineup for now, but the Texas Rangers plan to wait and see if their third baseman can avoid a trip to the disabled list.

“We’re going to kind of play it conservatively. We’re going to give him a few days,” general manager Jon Daniels said.

Clearing the bases

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons has a jammed right wrist and has been replaced in the starting lineup by Ramiro Pena. He is day to day … White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia will miss the rest of the season because of a tear in his left shoulder … Pittsburgh Pirates top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon has undergone Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. He is expected to miss 12 to 18 months … The Indians have placed third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall on the paternity list and recalled infielder Justin Sellers from Triple-A Columbus.

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