MINNEAPOLIS -- Nelson Cruz’s work with the bat has been impressive. But perhaps even more important has been his ability to stay on the field.
Cruz revamped his offseason routine prior to the 2012 season and it paid off as he played in a career-best 159 games. On Sunday, Cruz is in the lineup for the 25th time in 25 games this season -- one of only three Texas Rangers who can make the claim.
For Cruz, it’s simply a matter of understanding his body.
“You know what you need to do to prepare,” Cruz said. “Sometimes your body tells you you need to rest. You have to make sure you’re loose for the games, make sure you work out during the season, outside the season.”
Cruz said he’s extra diligent with his hamstring and quads, which conspired among other maladies to limit him to an average of 113 games from 2009 to 2011, with 128 games his career high until last season.
The resulting health has put Cruz in position to be among the league’s offensive leaders in several categories. His 19 RBI are tied for fifth in the American League, his five home runs are tied for 13th and his .322 batting average is good for 13th, as well.
And thanks to Cruz’s renewed focus on staying healthy, manager Ron Washington has been less tempted to pull him out of the lineup for maintenance days.
“He’s an animal, look at him,” Washington said. “At some point I’m going to give him a day off, but I got him a day DHing, and I’ll get him another day DHing. It’s just that he’s been productive, and sometimes it’s hard to pull that out of the lineup.”
Cruz is in the midst of a five-game hitting streak and has reached base safely in seven straight contests. Saturday’s game snapped a six-game RBI streak in which he drove in 13 runs.
Lineup staples: In addition to Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Mitch Moreland have been in the lineup every game this season. Moreland’s career high is 134 games played for the 2011 Rangers. Beltre has played in 152 or more games eight times in his career, including 156 for Texas last season. His career high of 159 games came for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002.
Elvis Andrus, David Murphy and Ian Kinsler have played in every game but one this season. Washington considered sitting Kinsler on Sunday, but the Rangers’ second baseman resisted with an off day scheduled for Tuesday.
Strikeout guy: Tuesday’s starter, Yu Darvish, leads all of baseball with 49 strikeouts this season. But he’s also topped seven innings just once and pitched six or fewer innings in three of his five starts.
It comes with the territory for strikeout pitchers, and Washington certainly isn’t complaining. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t mind seeing fewer pitches and longer outings from his right-hander.
“If you can strike out a guy out in a certain situation, I love a strikeout,” Washington said. “But you can be striking out 17 or 18 guys and you’re throwing a lot of pitches. All you have to do is throw one pitch and you can get a ground ball and get a guy out.”
But Darvish fans need not worry about Washington and the Rangers trying to tweak the 26-year-old’s approach.
“Yu’s a strikeout guy,” Washington said. “I’d like to see him get some quick outs, but I’m not going to try to change him. I’m saying that to me, saying that to the pitching coach. I’m not saying that to Yu Darvish.”