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Cruz off to hot start in Pirates' bullpen

Cruz off to hot start in Pirates' bullpen

Cruz off to hot start in Pirates' bullpen
PITTSBURGH -- Clint Hurdle wants a pitcher who keeps cool when the heat is on. Enter Juan Cruz, the veteran right-handed reliever who has already had an impact on the Bucs.

Cruz is the only pitcher to have appeared in each of the first two games, and he picked up the first victory as reward for his clutch deliveries in the top of the 10th of Saturday night's walk-off thriller vs. the Phillies.

He recovered from consecutive two-out singles to strike out Phillies' cleanup hitter Hunter Pence and preserve a tie.

"He's been around. He doesn't get rattled. He's confident all the time," said catcher Rod Barajas, whose leadoff double in the bottom of the 10th sparked the rally that led to Alex Presley's RBI infield single for the 2-1 win. "He's always telling me, 'I'll throw any pitch, any time. You put your fingers down, I'll throw it.'

"That's what makes him so tough. He proved it in Spring Training, and he's proving it now."

Cruz's two shutout innings have continued the convincing trend that earned him a job as a non-roster invitee to camp. In his team-high 10 spring appearances, the easy-going and well-traveled -- the Pirates are his seventh big league team -- 33-year-old held opponents to a .176 average. He had more strikeouts (seven) than hits allowed (six).

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