Cruz organized a three-day retreat where he and seven other Mariners teammates, including Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and newcomers Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy will work out together in preparation for the season.
ORLANDO, Fla. — In his first few years with the Mariners, Nelson Cruz seemed a little reticent to take a major leadership role, often deferring to teammates Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano. Sure, his work habits, his attention to preparation and conditioning, his stellar performance on the field, his welcoming personality and his hulking presence made him a leader in many ways, largely by example.
But Cruz wasn’t known to be outwardly vocal or assertive until it was necessary. It made the times when he would say something critical that much more important and listened to. But that has slowly changed and has been taken to another level going into the final year of his four-year contract.
As a way to welcome newcomers Dee Gordon and Ryon Healy and foster some camaraderie with his current teammates, Cruz organized a gathering of his teammates in Miami to come together to work out, have group dinners and talk about the upcoming season.
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It was an idea Cruz had the end of last season. It’s not anything he’d ever put together before.
“This is the first time,” he said via conference call. “I was just thinking about how I can help get my teammates better, how I can help myself also and get everybody on the same page.”
The three-day affair featured:
- Assessment of strengths and weaknesses of the body.
- Position specific geared training.
- Batting cage option on Friday after training.
The gathering attracted seven players besides Cruz:
- Guillermo Heredia
- Ben Gamel
- James Paxton
- Ryon Healy
- Dee Gordon
- Ariel Miranda
- Felix Hernandez
Robinson Cano just returned to the Dominican Republic from his trip to the Middle East and is unable to make it. Jean Segura is still trying to join the group, but he has other commitments. Mitch Haniger has a personal trainer that he works with while Kyle Seager trains with his brother, Corey, in North Carolina.
Cruz was happy with the number showing up.
“It’s hard to leave your free time to go somewhere to work,” Cruz said.
Cruz felt it was most important to get newcomers Gordon and Healy to join the group.
“It’s nice to have the team atmosphere and have different ideas and talk about all the goals we want to accomplish in the season,” he said.
Manager Scott Servais was ecstatic about the gathering.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “It’s something asked about in the exit meetings at the end of the year, I know it’s an idea that Nelson had brought up to me. I thought it was tremendous. Really pushed for him to do that, and it really should be done with the players themselves. There’s not going to be any club personnel down there, no coaches whatever. Guys just spending some time together in the off-season working out, and Dee Gordon is going to join the group, Ryon Healy will join the group. So anytime you can do those things away from the field, it helps with the team building as we go into Spring Training knowing what’s ahead of us.”
Cruz said he won’t be doing any hitting in the three days. He’s waiting to start that next week. But Gordon, Healy and Gamel have already been hitting and plan to take batting practice together.