Baseball / Sports

Orioles have had preliminary extension talks with Nelson Cruz

While Nelson Cruz has previously made it clear that he would like to make Baltimore his long-term home, Cruz said for the first time Friday that he and the Orioles have had preliminary discussions about keeping him in an Orioles uniform beyond 2014.

The 34-year-old Cruz said his representatives have had discussions with the Orioles about a possible long-term deal since the All-Star break, but he didn't describe the talks as anything serious.

"1/8They've been3/8 talking, but nothing serious ... since the All-Star break," Cruz said. "After the All-Star break. But nothing serious, just communicated.

"From the first time I got here, I liked it. Good clubhouse, like the guys. But at the same time I have been through this before. I understand it is a business. ... It is, I guess, the owner's decision, the GM's. But there's no doubt I'd like to stay."

The Orioles might have made the savviest free-agent signing in February when they inked Cruz to a one-year, $8-million contract. Cruz didn't receive the multi-year deal he was seeking this offseason, partially because he was coming off a 50-game suspension from involvement in the BioGenesis scandal and he was tied to draft-pick compensation.

"I want to stay here, like I said, but if it doesn't happen, I understand," Cruz said. "I think the experience that I gained last year helped me to understand what this is all about. It's about business whatever for the team is in the best interest for them. So if it doesn't happen, I won't be surprised."

Cruz leads the majors with 34 homers and figures to make a healthy payday this offseason when he can test the free-agent waters again. While Cruz said he'd like to remain with the Orioles, he said he's in "no rush" to get a deal done and would prefer to concentrate on the field for now.

The Orioles have plenty of offseason decisions to make. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and right fielder Nick Markakis don't have guaranteed contracts with the club next season.

Cruz said his desire to remain in Baltimore has grown over the course of the season. Besides being the team's top run producer, Cruz has fit in well in the Orioles clubhouse.

"No doubt," Cruz said. "It is growing every day. Every time we go to the field we experience something new, something that, to be part of a winning team before, it's something that you come to the ballpark every day expecting good results. And to see it on an everyday basis is definitely an extra motivation to stay in this kind of place."

Said Orioles manager Buck Showalter: "I'm trying to stay out of the way, keep things going in a good direction. Nelson's one of the reasons we have this opportunity. We certainly would like to have that continue. If there comes a time they may ask me how I think things fit baseball-wise, but I'm going to keep out of the financial part of it because the further we play and the more we do, better chance I guess."

(c)2014 The Baltimore Sun

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