Fossum, once dealt for Schilling, now a Ray
PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks' search for a center fielder ended with the acquisition of Jose Cruz Jr. from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, and the 30-year-old switch hitter is thrilled about the move.
"Very, very excited about this trade," Cruz said in a conference call on Monday. "Just the simple fact of the caliber of players you're surrounded by, the stadium -- one of my favorites to play in. It's really kind of overwhelming. My life got turned upside down a little yesterday."
Cruz has been a right fielder in recent years. The last time he was a regular in center was 2001, but he said he welcomed a return to the position.
"Center field is probably the easiest of the outfield to play because everything you get is true, the spin on the ball," he said. "The toughest part of it is throwing. I've played them all and I'm up for the challenge."
There had been reports that Arizona was trying to acquire Eric Byrnes from Oakland, but no deal could be worked out.
To get Cruz, Arizona had only to trade left-hander Casey Fossum. Acquired in the Curt Schilling trade with Boston, Fossum was 4-15 with a 6.65 ERA as a starter with the woeful Diamondbacks last year. He was headed for the bullpen before the trade, and that's probably his destination with Tampa Bay, too.
Fossum agreed Sunday to a one-year contract with the Rays that guarantees him $1.05 million. The Devil Rays also sent cash to Arizona to help defray part of the $4 million Cruz is due in the second year of his two-year contract with Tampa Bay.
Cruz hit .242 last season with 21 home runs and 78 RBI in 158 games. He won a Gold Glove with San Francisco in 2003, when he committed just two errors.
He began his major league career with Seattle in 1997, then played 5½ seasons with Toronto and one with San Francisco. Cruz is a career .250 hitter with 175 home runs and 535 RBI. Cruz' father is Jose Cruz, a major leaguer from 1970 to 1988 with St. Louis, Houston and the New York Yankees.
Cruz is a candidate for the leadoff spot in Arizona, which would be fine with him.
"I think probably my best year was as a leadoff," he said. "I led off most of the year when I was in Toronto."
Cruz is very familiar with the outfield at Bank One Ballpark from his season with the Giants.
"It's a different type of field as far as the dimensions go -- the overhang in center, the pool and Jacuzzi in right field, the ball carries well, the fans. It's a great atmosphere," he said.
"I can hardly contain myself here," he said. "It's going to be a really nice array of guys, I think, as far as personality and how they go about doing their business."
General manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said the trade has been in the works for some time.
"In Jose Cruz, we get an established major league player who pointed out to Bob Melvin that the one season he played on natural grass, he won a Gold Glove," Garagiola said.
Arizona appears to have concluded its personnel makeover after a 111-loss season and the trade of Randy Johnson last month to the Yankees.
"This pretty much should be the squad that goes to Tucson," Garagiola said.
In addition to Cruz, the offseason acquisitions -- either by trade or free agency -- include Green, third baseman Troy Glaus, shortstop Royce Clayton, second baseman Craig Counsell and starters Russ Ortiz, Javier Vazquez and Shawn Estes.
Pitchers and catchers report to spring training for the Diamondbacks in Tucson on Feb. 16.
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
MORE MLB HEADLINES
- Trout hits for cycle as Angels drub Mariners
- Quintana sharp as White Sox edge Red Sox
- Giants' Vogelsong to DL with broken hand
- Straily outduels Darvish as A's top Rangers