Rhiner Cruz

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Rhiner Allen Cruz Montero

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Biographical Information[edit]

Rhiner Cruz reached the majors with the Houston Astros in 2012. His brother Jose Cruz played for the Tigers system in 2007 and the two were teammates on the Spanish national team several times.

Cruz was signed by scout Ramon Pena for the Detroit Tigers and debuted in their system in 2004 with the GCL Tigers, going 0-1 with a 4.78 ERA in 16 games. In 2005, he went 1-0 with a save and a 4.50 ERA in 14 outings. He was let go by the Tigers and did not pitch in 2006.

Cruz then was signed by the New York Mets. He split 2007 between the DSL Mets (0-1, Sv, 2.70 in 4 games), GCL Mets (2-0, 0.00, 1 H in 6 IP) and Kingsport Mets (1-1, 4 Sv, 0.71 in 11 games, 14 BB in 12 2/3 IP).

The hard-throwing Cruz joined the Spanish national team in 2007. He had a 6.23 ERA in two outings in the 2007 European Championship; he blew a 3-2 lead against the Dutch national team after replacing Manny Olivera in the 6th inning, allowing 4 walks and 3 runs in 2 2/3 IP while fanning five. Cruz was one of Spain's worst pitchers in the 2007 Baseball World Cup with a 34.71 ERA, second-highest. He was roughed up by both South Africa (the only Spanish hurler to allow a run to South Africa) and Team USA. He allowed 9 runs in 2 1/3 IP with 9 hits and 3 walks. In the 2008 Final Olympic Qualification Tournament, he allowed 5 hits, 5 walks and 5 runs in 5 innings.

Cruz split the summer of 2008 between the Brooklyn Cyclones (Sv, 3.72, 13 K in 9 2/3 IP) and Savannah Sand Gnats (2-2, Sv, 5.04, 33 K in 30 1/3 IP). In '09, he was 3-3 with 22 saves and a 1.92 ERA as Savannah's closer. In 61 innings, he allowed only 2 walks but walked 31. He allowed a .199 opponent average. He was 4th in the South Atlantic League in saves, between Dan Remenowsky and Josh Satow. He was much better in the 2009 Baseball World Cup than in 2007, allowing one hit and no runs in 5 1/3 innings as Spain's top hurler. He did walk four but fanned 7. He got the win over Great Britain.

With the 2010 St. Lucie Mets, Cruz was 0-5 with 6 saves and a 3.46 ERA, walking 53 in 75 1/3 IP. After his 2011 season spent with the Class A St. Lucie (2-1, 2.77, 18 K in 13 IP) and AA Binghamton Mets (3-2, 7 Sv, 4.14, 39 BB in 58 2/3 IP), Cruz opened scouts' eyes in the Dominican League by approaching 100 mph on the radar gun; he had a 1.47 ERA for the Gigantes del Cibao that winter. The Mets had too many prospects to protect to add Cruz to their 40-man roster, given his past inconsistency. However, in the 2011 Rule V draft, the Houston Astros jumped on the chance to give the fireballer a shot, taking him with the first pick.

Cruz was with the 2012 Astros, going 1-1 with a 6.05 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in 52 games, a fair bit of work for a Rule V pick. Despite being one of the few Spanish team players with MLB experience, he was one of their worst performers in the 2013 World Baseball Classic - 4 hits, a walk and 3 runs in 1 1/3 IP, including a homer by Carlos Santana. His 20.25 ERA tied Eduardo Morlan for second-worst on Spain, with only Antonio Noguera worse. He was 0-2 with a 3.38 ERA for the 2013 Astros in 20 games, but his WHIP remained high (1.69) and he spent most of the summer with the Oklahoma City RedHawks (1-2, 2 Sv, 4.75 in 37 G), walking 32 in 41 2/3 IP. After opening 2014 back with the RedHawks (1-1, 2.25 in 20 G), he was let go so he could sign with Japan's Rakuten Golden Eagles.

Cruz was 2-2 with a 3.99 ERA in 29 games for Rakuten in 2014; his WHIP remained high (1.74). He improved to 1-3 with a save and a 3.12 ERA for them in 52 games in 2015 but walked 29 in 49 IP. In the 2016 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers and 2016 European Championship, he was far better than his prior tournament for Spain. In the qualifiers, a disappointing run for Spain (which was defending a spot in the World Baseball Classic but went 0-2), he relieved Ricardo Hernandez in the 8th against France with two outs, one on and a 5-2 deficit. He retired Frédéric Hanvi, then Spain scored in the bottom of the 8th. In the top of the 9th, he retired Rene Leveret and Andy Paz then turned the ball over to Daniel Alvarez. He struggled in brief action in the 2016 Mexican League, with 7 runs in 7 innings. In the 2016 Euros, he was back in form. He allowed only three hits and one walk in seven innings, fanning ten and winning three games. He got the win over Belgium in relief of Hernandez, beat traditional power Italy and threw the final two innings of a combined no-hitter (with Alvarez) to get the win over Germany that put Spain in the finals for the first European Championship since 1955. He was not used in the finale, a 3-2 loss to the Netherlands. He led the Euros that year in wins and tied for the most games pitched (4, even with Loek van Mil, Andy Orfanakos and Tom de Blok).

Signed by the Atlanta Braves for 2017, he started off well with the Gwinnett Braves (1-5, 3 Sv, 3.41, 46 K in 37 IP) in attempting a return to the majors after three seasons away. He made it back the next year by pitching 2 games of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2018.


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