Nelson Cruz feeling better

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Right fielder Nelson Cruz returned to the starting lineup for the Texas Rangers on Thursday night.

Cruz, 31, did not play the first two games of this series with the Arizona Diamondbacks after arriving at the clubhouse on Tuesday feeling ill. He returned to the park for Wednesday's game and pinch hit in the eighth inning, striking out.

"I was only gone two days, but it felt like a week," said Cruz, who batted sixth Thursday night. "I was happy to be with the team, and I'm ready to do whatever it takes to help them out. I've been doing everything [to get ready]."

Cruz felt better Wednesday and probably could have started, but manager Ron Washington said he wanted to give him an extra day just to be sure.

"He looks better today," Washington said.

Cruz is hitting .260 with eight homers and 36 RBIs this season. But he's been steadily improving, hitting .302 with six homers and 23 RBIs in his past 32 games.