Padres' Prospect Interview: Luis Cruz

Last season, Luis Cruz struggled mightily in Double-A Mobile and was sent to the Mexican League. He began the year in sluggishly again this season but has turned it around and represented the San Diego Padres in the All-Star Futures Game and the Southern League All-Star game.

In 44 games with the Mobile BayBears in 2005, Luis Cruz hit just .159 with six of his 24 hits going for extra bases. He was subsequently loaned to the Mexican League – just a year after collecting 46 extra base hits and 72 RBI's with the Lake Elsinore Storm.

Given a second chance with Mobile, Cruz has not disappointed. While he began the season with a .189 average in April, he has hit above .300 since and has 41 extra base hits, second most in the league, over his first 87 games and his 30 doubles lead the Southern League.

You have been hitting the ball well over the last few months. Did anything change from your slow start in April?

Luis Cruz: I have been working hard since the off-season and I think that is why I am hitting the ball well. I think working hard every day. In April, I was hitting the ball well but right at the outfielders. I would have loved to have more hits in April but I kept working the same approach, the same work I was doing in spring training, and now I am doing better.

Was going to Mexico last year a slap in the face and did it help you?

Luis Cruz: That helped me a lot because I should have been here but I was struggling a lot. I think it helped me a lot and winter ball – I did good in winter ball – and they gave me a second chance here in Double-A.

You are still young to be in Double-A, despite the lost year. Do you look at it that way?

Luis Cruz: Everybody wants to get to the big leagues as fast as you can. You don't want to spend a lot of time down in the minors. I hope they give me a chance in Portland or the majors.

You have played second, shortstop, third base, do you have any preference?

Luis Cruz: I can play all the positions on the infield and I played outfield in winter ball. I just want to play every day and do my job.

Talk a little bit about your defense.

Luis Cruz: My first few years I was always playing shortstop and this year they wanted to put me at second base and third base. Wherever they put me it is the same job to stop the ball and throw it.

Was it difficult moving to second on a full-time basis?

Luis Cruz: The first couple of games, yes. You are accustomed to making that long throw from shortstop and you go to second base and feel weird because you have to toss it to the first baseman and you don't have to throw it. Right now, I feel good out there.

Did you get stronger this off-season? You are among the leaders in doubles and have shown some pop with eight homers.

Luis Cruz: I worked hard this off-season but most of it was in mind last year, mental, because I had a bad beginning and I could not get out of that. I worked hard this off-season and worked out and it has paid off because I am doing good.

I think it was May 13 that you clubbed two homers. Was that a highlight of the season so far and where did the power come from – you did hit eight out in 2004.

Luis Cruz: That day – the day before I went 0-for-4 or 0-for-3 or something like that. I came home and said ‘I don't want to think about baseball.' The next day something clicked. I didn't have any homers then and hit two in one game and everyone asked me ‘what happened to you?' I am not a home run hitter. ‘Luis, what is up? Have you been working out or something?' I am getting better and can hit the ball out.

In the California League for Lake Elsinore you knocked in 72 – can you improve on that?

Luis Cruz: I wish I can get 72 or more but you never know what is going to happen. I am going to keep working hard and trying to keep the same approach that I have been doing. I hope I can get better and get more RBI's and extra base hits.

You have consistently hit well with runners in scoring position. What do you attribute that to?

Luis Cruz: Thank God that I have been able to come up in clutch situations and get the hit and get my job done.

What are the goals for the rest of the year?

Luis Cruz: My expectations for the rest of this season are – to me, they always say I was a defensive player and that I could play any position on the infield. Right now, I am working a lot on my hitting and if I keep hitting the ball well and driving runners in, I hope they give me a chance at the next level.

Talk about playing next to Juan Ciriaco.

Luis Cruz: He is my buddy. I help him out and he helps me out. We are always talking to each other so we are never out of position.

Did you think you should have stayed at shortstop and Juan should have been the one to move to second base?

Luis Cruz: That is the manager's decision. I am happy being in the lineup wherever. If they want to put me at catcher or third base, I will be happy because I want to be in the lineup. I just want to be in the first nine.

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