Nelson Cruz is returning to Arlington, and he will be there on Tuesday night when the Rangers and the Orioles open a three-game series. This will be Cruz's first appearance in Arlington since turning down the Rangers $14.1 million qualifying offer and eventually leaving the organization after last season.
Cruz status' is questionable after leaving Sunday's game with a bruised left hand, but otherwise this is a notable reunion for a player who had tremendous success with the Rangers and was quite popular with the fans.
"If you could read the future, yeah, you would probably take the qualifying offer," Cruz said, laughing. "But it's something that you risk and you trust your instincts. In this case, it wasn't what I expected. But I'm happy with my decision and happy with where I am now."
Cruz's career with the Rangers ended on a sour note, as he was suspended for the final 50 games of last season because of a violation of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Policy.
"He was a great teammate," Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre said. "He came and played hard every day. He was good in the clubhouse and you always knew he would give you everything he had to win a ballgame. What happened last year doesn't mean anything. He can still go out and have a great year."
Cruz is coming to Arlington hitting .315 with 20 home runs, 52 RBIs and a .672 slugging percentage. He just wants the hand to be good enough so he can play against his former team. He was hit by a pitch thrown by Astros pitcher Scott Feldman, another former Rangers player.
"You just treat it like another game," Cruz said. "So see how it feels and just go from there."
The Orioles will be facing their own former teammate. Joe Saunders will be making his third start and second since coming off the disabled list when he pitches for the Rangers.
Saunders is 1-7 with an 8.58 ERA in eight career starts at Globe Life Park, the fourth highest ERA by any pitcher with at least five starts there. But he won his last start there on July 2, 2013, when he was with the Mariners, allowing two runs in 6 2/3 innings. He was also with the Orioles in '12 and beat the Rangers in Arlington in the Wild Card Game by allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings.
Saunders made his first start on April 4 against the Rays and had to come out of the game in the third inning after getting hit in the left ankle by a smash off the bat of Evan Longoria. He sustained a stress fracture and was on the disabled list until May 28.
Saunders started that game against the Twins and pitched five scoreless innings, despite allowing five hits and two walks. He struck out six.
"My last start was OK," Saunders said. "It could have been better. I felt I was a little too fine than I needed to be, but it was still a good battle. I had a lot of traffic on the bases and was able to get out of it by making big pitches. It was a good second first start of the year.
Saunders is 7-0 with a 4.09 ERA in his career against the O's. That's the most wins by any pitcher without a loss against them.
Orioles: O's alter rotation
A day off on Monday leaves Baltimore a chance to shake up its rotation, so starting pitchers Bud Norris and Chris Tillman will each get an extra two days of rest.
Ubaldo Jimenez will start as scheduled on Tuesday, followed by Norris on Wednesday and Miguel Gonzalez on Thursday for the finale of the three-game series in Texas.
Wei-Yin Chen will start on Friday and Tillman won't go again until to Saturday to round out this turn through the rotation.
"There's only one history we couldn't take advantage of," Showalter said. "We try to satisfy the needs of the team and the pitchers."
Rangers: Finally home after long trip
The Rangers are returning home after an 11-game road trip that included seven day games. It is their longest road trip of the season.
"It feels like we have been on the road for a month, especially with all these day games," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "It has been tough, I'm happy we're going home."
The Rangers have three games against the Orioles to start a nine-game homestand. It is the third-longest homestand for the Rangers this season.
Worth noting: • The Rangers will decide on Tuesday if Tanner Scheppers is ready to come off the disabled list or needs more time on rehab assignment. He has been out since April 18 with elbow inflammation.
• The Rangers entered Sunday having not hit a home run in six straight games before Leonys Martin went deep on Sunday. They had 34 on the year through 56 games, which put them on pace for 98 on the season. That would be the lowest for the Rangers in a non-strike season since 1976. Rangers opponents had 49 home runs. The last time their opponents had more home runs was in 2000.
• Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is also going up against his former team. But in 12 games against the Rangers, he is hitting just .140 with one home run and two RBIs.
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.