10/20/10 7:45 PM EST
Cardinals' Cruz goes deep twice in rout
Surprise catcher comfortable making switch to first base
By Danny Wild / MLB.com
"We have guys on the team from Texas, so we've got the game on," he said of the Yankees-Rangers American League Championship Series game. "We're making friends, getting to know each other -- you never know what could happen, you could be playing with these guys some day. So we're all making friends."
And that about sums up the Arizona Fall League experience. Cruz, a Cardinals infielder, homered twice for the first time in his professional career and drove in four runs to lead the Surprise Rafters past the host Peoria Saguaros, 9-2.
For another month, Cruz has the chance to prove himself, meet potential rivals and continue to live baseball. After a slow start, he's enjoying the moment.
"It's great," he said. "If you look a lot of guys who played here, they're moving up. It's a good experience, the competition out here is great."
Cruz connected in the third inning for a three-run homer off Johnnie Lowe (White Sox), led off the fifth with a longball to center field off Kyle Waldrop (Twins) and scored three times in his best game of the fall.
"I've never done that," Cruz said of the two-homer performance. "So I wasn't thinking about it. I'm just looking for a to pitch to hit, [to] try to find something to drive. I had two strikes on me and was looking to square something up. He left a breaking ball up and I got good wood on it."
The Palm Beach, Fla., native -- a catcher for much of his career -- got off to a slow start, going 3-for-21 (.143) in his first five games in Arizona, most coming as a first baseman. He hadn't recorded a four-RBI game since May 27, 2009.
"In the first few games, I was in good counts, but was just missing pitches," said Cruz. "So hopefully I can keep it going."
His second homer came against a pitcher he'd never faced before.
"He started me off with a change, which I found weird," he said. "So I said, I'm gonna be aggressive, anything close, I'm going to swing. He threw me a fastball, I was just trying to drive it."
The 23-year-old is seeing time at first primarily so the Rafters can get his bat in the lineup. The team has several catchers on the roster, and Cruz feels comfortable making the move.
"I don't have a problem with it, I've played the other corner too," he said.
Cruz, who played winter ball in 2008 in Hawaii, was St. Louis' 27th-round pick in the 2007 Draft after spending time at Northwest Florida State College and Middle Georgia College. He's played in his hometown with Class A Advanced Palm Beach in two of his three full seasons in the Minors, along with stints at Double-A Springfield and, briefly this summer, Triple-A Memphis.
Caleb Gindl homered for the second straight game, a solo shot in the first off Lowe, and fellow Brewers prospect Michael Fiers picked up the win after allowing two runs on five hits over three innings.
Lowe was charged with seven runs -- four earned -- on seven hits over three frames. Rays outfielder Leslie Anderson doubled and knocked in both runs for Peoria in the first.
Danny Wild is an editor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.