PITTSBURGH – He is here.
“This is the time when we think [Cruz] can help us,” Shelton said. “We talked about a lot of things developmentally. There are still things that we will continue to work on, but we believe that now is where he will help us.
There was speculation that Cruz would be called up at some point during this homestand, but the flames were only fanned when he was dropped from the Triple-A Indianapolis roster for his Sunday game. General Manager Ben Cherington, when asked about Cruz’s omission on his weekly 93.7 radio show The Fan, said with a laugh, “Guys have days off from time to time.”
For many in Pittsburgh, that moment couldn’t have come soon enough.
Fans expressed nearly universal frustration when Cruz was snubbed from the opening day roster. The 23-year-old came through the minors last season and was rewarded with his first Major League call-up, where he teased the talent that made him an intriguing prospect. During his brief spring training this year, he hit a pair of home runs that spoke of his raw and impressive power.
Cruz started slow with Triple-A Indianapolis. In April, he hit just .176 with a home run. Since then, Cruz has slashed .265/.367/.500 with eight homers and 130 wRC+, not counting his lone appearance on Sunday, while producing exit speeds that only a handful of humans can achieve. Cruz made a few cameos in left field, but Shelton confirmed that Cruz will primarily play shortstop with the Pirates.
Someone much more familiar with the outfield is Madris, who has been on an absolute tear for the past few weeks. Like Cruz, Madris started slow, hitting just 0.200 in April. Madris started to heat up in May, but once the calendar moved into June, it went to another level. In 16 games this month, Madris has reduced 0.400/0.463/0.683 with two home runs and nine doubles. Now he and Cruz will be heading to Pittsburgh.
“He did a lot of things well,” Shelton said. “If you look back, even coming out of spring training, if we would have been in a different place, he might have made our club at that time. He’s been very good over the last month.
“He can play both outfield corners. He continued to do a lot of things well, and that’s when he deserves to be called out. So I think that’s the highlight of where he was in spring training and what he’s been up to for the last three weeks.
The arrivals of Cruz and Madris come at a time when the team, and the attack in particular, could use a spark. Even with Suwinski’s heroism on Sunday, the Pirates have lost 11 of their last 13 games. Cruz, who is arguably the most dynamic power-speed threat of any current prospect, can certainly help revive a sluggish offense.
Cruz’s call was always a matter of when, not if. There was too much talent, too much potential for him to spend an entire season in Triple-A. On Sunday, the question of his arrival date finally found an answer. Come Monday, he’ll be at PNC Park, donning the black and gold. Cruz is there. He will have his lead. It’s finally time to see what he has in his bag of tricks.