"‘Hi, who is this?'
"‘What's up Juan!'
"‘Congratulations, you have just been added to the 40-man roster.'
"‘Phew!' My mom and my girlfriend were like, ‘Yeah!'
"It was the biggest step in my career and really exciting."
The work doesn't stop when you are added to the 40-man roster. It actually is just beginning for Luis Cruz.
Known as a stellar defensive player, Cruz has fought bouts of inconsistency with the bat. The infielder opened the year with a .189 average over the first month of the season before hitting over .300 for the next two, dropping down to .209 in July and ending the year with a .261 average.
So, while the defense has continued to be steady, the bat needs work and part of that is stamina to make it through the tough months.
"I worked a lot on my offense and swinging – playing in winter ball to do my best to come back here and do my job," Cruz explained. "Every player gets tired in August. I got 500 at bats and got tired. I think this year is going to be different for me. I feel a lot more complete and have a lot more experience. I hope they give me a chance – maybe in September – and I am going to be ready to do my job."
Getting better at the plate will include improving on his 29 walks and 62 strikeouts. While he has never been one to whiff a lot, he has seen the wisdom in taking more pitches and being selective.
"I consider myself a good count hitter," said Cruz. "I think I like to see pitches and I think this year is going to be a lot different because I have more experience. Triple-A is a lot different than Double-A. Double-A – they send all the prospects and they throw hard but don't hit their spots. Triple-A is more like winter ball for me. That is what they say because in winter ball they hit their spots and trick you. It is good because you learn a lot. I think it is going to be a good year for me. I feel strong and ready to play."
One thing he understands is there is always someone behind him waiting to take his place and Cruz clearly doesn't want that to happen.
He will put his work ethic to the test this year to ensure he sticks. Besides, now that he is on the 40-man and one step away from the big leagues in Triple-A Portland, Cruz is literally one call away from the show.
"People are waiting longer than you to get on the roster," said Cruz. "Right now, I feel really good. I have been working hard. I will go to Triple-A and do my job and one call away from the big leagues. One day they can say, ‘We need somebody' and if I am playing well in Triple-A they can say, ‘Cruz' – you never know."