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07/10/09 9:06 PM ET

Star turn: Cruz added to AL team

Rangers outfielder replaces injured Angels standout Hunter

SEATTLE -- A day like Friday was probably hard to imagine for Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz last season, when the Rangers placed him on waivers after he didn't make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training.

So Friday's news that Cruz had been selected to replace the Angels' Torii Hunter in the All-Star Game was that much more rewarding for the 29-year-old.

He found out after working out prior to Friday's game against the Mariners.

"I'm happy, man," Cruz said of receiving the news that he'll be heading to the Midsummer Classic in St. Louis on Tuesday. "Crazy. I was kind of nervous, like, 'What?' "

An abductor strain in Hunter's right side forced him to the disabled list. Hunter had been added to the AL roster through the players' vote, and because Cruz was the next-highest vote-getter, he was asked to be Hunter's replacement.

His power numbers are certainly worthy of an All-Star nod. Cruz is batting .262 this season -- his first as a full-time Major Leaguer -- with 20 home runs and 50 RBIs. The homer total is tied for tops on the club, and his 50 RBIs are second only to Ian Kinsler.

Cruz joins teammates Michael Young and Josh Hamilton on the American League roster.

"It's pretty exciting for Cruz," manager Ron Washington said. "He's a big force in what we've been doing. ... The players thought he was worthy of it and I'm proud of him. I know he was shocked when he heard it."

Cruz looked like his time as a Ranger was close to ending prior to last season, when the Rangers outrighted him to Triple-A Oklahoma.

But he cleared waivers, and that's when his climb back to the big leagues began.

Cruz flourished in Triple-A, earning Pacific Coast League MVP honors by batting .342 with 37 home runs, 18 doubles and 99 RBIs in 103 games. Cruz was also named the Rangers' Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year, and was called up when the team purchased his contract from Oklahoma on Aug. 25. He hit .330 with seven homers in the final 31 games of the 2008 season.

Then this year, with the opportunity in front of him to earn a starting job in the outfield, he emerged as one of the club's most dangerous power hitters.

"It's a lot," Cruz said, asked how much the All-Star selection meant to him. "I've been through so much the last two or three years, just thanks for God. Thanks for my family and all their support. They always give me good support in the tough moments. They deserve it to be happy."

Christian Caple is an associate reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.