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Cruz not bitter about business of baseball

By MARC TOPKIN
Published June 8, 2004

ST. PETERSBURG - Jose Cruz has a busy week ahead.

He has former teammates still with San Francisco to visit. He has a Gold Glove award, which he won playing for the Giants last season, to pick up. And he has to sign 22 replica copies that will be given to kids. He has to round up extras of his minibobblehead doll that is being distributed Wednesday for family and friends, as well as the baseball card being handed out Thursday.

And, depending on what kind of pitches Barry Bonds gets to hit, Cruz might have to run down a few balls in rightfield, or at least chase them to the outfield wall.

Cruz spent the 2003 season with the Giants, hitting .250 with 20 homers and 68 RBIs and helping them to 100 wins and the NL West title with tremendous defense. But things didn't end well, as he dropped a fly ball at a key moment in Game 3 of the NL division series against Florida. The Giants declined his $4-million option and let him go.

Now they meet again.

"Am I looking forward to it? I don't know," Cruz said. "It will definitely be good to see some of the old teammates I haven't seen in a while. We did some real good things last year and got to the postseason. There was a lot of good stuff. Everything kind of ended abruptly."

Cruz, who signed with the Rays for $6-million over two years, said he bears no grudge against the Giants.

"I just kind of had a feeling like they weren't going to pick it up, that the decision was already made a long time ago," Cruz said. "It's part of the business. A lot of stuff is financial now, and you have to deal with that. It's over. If you're asking if there is some sort of grudge, some sort of payback with them, no, that's not the case. They're just another team."

Cruz said he looks forward to seeing the bobblehead doll and is even more excited about getting his Gold Glove.

"The only ones I've seen are the Alomars', Sandy's and Roberto's," Cruz said. "It will be nice to have one with your name on it."

WELCOME BACK: Giants general manager Brian Sabean should feel right at home this week. Sabean played and coached at Eckerd College, then went coached at Saint Leo and Tampa before getting into pro ball with the Yankees, with whom he worked as scouting director when Lou Piniella was the general manager.

"Sharp guy," Piniella said.

Sabean was a scrappy infielder at Eckerd, one of those coach-on-the-field types. But according to former teammate Bill Mathews, the current Tritons coach, Sabean made the right move going into the front office.

"My opinion of him as a player is that he's probably one of best general managers around," Mathews said.

BEING GREEN: Tropicana Field looks a little less drab after the gray back walls of the stadium were painted dark green last week.

"We wanted to make it look like an outfield wall," said Rick Nafe, vice president of operations and facilities. "We didn't have anything to do last week so we got together and painted. Most of us stayed inside the lines."

Now all they have to do is paint a sky - or a skyline - on the rest of the wall.

JUNIOR ACHIEVER: Count Fred McGriff as one of Ken Griffey's biggest fans as Griffey closes in on 500 home runs.

"He's a great player," said McGriff, who has 492 home runs. "If he'd stayed healthy he'd have 550 or close to 600 by now. He's a great player. Good for him. People have been tough on him, now he's come back."

MISCELLANY: Infielder/outfielder Charles Gipson cleared waivers for the second time this season and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Durham. ... The makeup of Saturday's postponement in Baltimore will be July 5 as the second half of a day-night doubleheader; the teams are scheduled to begin at 1:35 p.m. ... Plenty of tickets are available for all three games against the Giants.

[Last modified June 8, 2004, 01:01:17]

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