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Though he’s moved on, former Twins slugger Nelson Cruz continues to mentor Luis Arraez

Arraez spent a month this offseason working with Cruz in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins third baseman Luis Arraez (2) celebrates with designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) after scoring a run in an April 5, 2021, game against the Detroit Tigers.
Raj Mehta / USA Today Sports

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Luis Arraez’s phone is ringing — and it’s early. Maybe 7 a.m. or so. He knows who is on the other line, and he knows exactly what he wants.

Nelson Cruz has just agreed to a deal with a new team — the former Twins designated hitter will join the Washington Nationals this season — but as always, he has someone else on his mind.

This time, it’s Arraez.

At 7 a.m., Cruz wants to know if Arraez has lifted weights yet. During his two and a half seasons in Minnesota, Cruz was well known for taking young players in under his tutelage. And even though Cruz is now gone, he’s still filling the mentorship role for Arraez.

Arraez spent a month this offseason working with Cruz in his hometown of Las Matas de Santa Cruz in the Dominican Republic, heading down in mid-January to train at Cruz’s gym, hit at his batting cage and stay with the 41-year-old at his home.

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“I’ve never worked like that,” Arraez said. “We worked three times a day. It’s the first time I worked like that. I never hit like that, too. We hit a lot. We worked. We slept.”

A typical day would see them starting in the cages at around 9 a.m. and hitting until noon, Arraez said. They would “drink protein,” and then quickly shift to lifting until 3 p.m. After that, they’d grab some food and rest for a bit before getting back to the cages around 7 p.m. and hitting until 11 or 12. Cruz’s mother, Dominga, would often cook for them.

“This is the kind of stuff that has been a reality for Luis, being locked in with Nellie and his routine,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “Nellie’s been preparing for his season and for games like this for 15 years. This is how he’s always been, and for guys getting a taste of it, it’s eye opening.”

For Arraez, it certainly was.

Sometimes they would take a day off, sometimes they wouldn’t. For Cruz, Arraez said, off days aren’t much of a thing.

“Nellie, he doesn’t have a day off,” Arraez said. “(When) he wakes up, he just wants to hit. Hit, hit, hit and work. I want to put my routine like that, too. … It’s helped me a lot.”

Arraez slimmed down while in the Dominican Republic, losing about 11 pounds, he said.

Physically, Arraez said he came out of the experience feeling much different. He also came out of the month with a more defined routine — one that has him in the gym early in the morning — that he intends to continue in an attempt to stay healthy and strong.

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Arraez dealt with three separate stints on the injured list last season: first a concussion, then a shoulder injury and lastly, a knee issue.

“He helps me (with) my body,” Arraez said. “He wants me to be healthy this year. I want to play every game. That’s why I work hard with him.”

What position exactly Arraez plays will still be sorted out, though it seems he will see a majority of his time at third base after Josh Donaldson was traded earlier this week. Arraez, who primarily played second base in 2019-20, can also back up Jorge Polanco there.

Baldelli said the Twins will not have Arraez spending time preparing to play the outfield this spring, though the team sent him out to left field 21 times last year.

“I’d like him to focus his attention on playing around the infield,” Baldelli said. “That’s what’s going to get him ready, and that’s where we’re going to play him. Can things always change? Of course. But that’s where he’s going to play. That’s our plan for him early on.”

Wherever Baldelli decides to play him, Arraez will be ready and willing.

And the Twins can thank Cruz for an assist with helping him prepare.

“Because we (couldn’t) talk to the coaches (during the lockout), that’s why I worked there but … maybe this year I go there, too,” Arraez said. “I want to be close to Nellie. Nellie, he’s a part of my family. I love Nellie.”

Related Topics: MINNESOTA TWINSBASEBALL
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