In 2018, 28-year-old CJ Cron slugged .493, posted an OPS of .816 and smacked 30 homers for Tampa. And the Rays basically kicked him to the curb, giving the first baseman the dreaded “Designated for Assignment” (DFA) treatment on November 20.
The elated Twins, with a vacancy at first base after Joe Mauer’s retirement, claimed the slugger six days later. A first round pick by the Angels out of the University of Utah in 2011, Cron is off to a solid start with his new team, hitting .268/.317/.461 with 3 homers.
I chatted with the former Angel and Ray at his locker during the Toronto series last week.
DZ: You’ve been here about three weeks now…. what’s it been like so far, being a Twin?
CRON: It’s been good. It’s a great group of guys in here. We enjoy each other’s company quite a bit. And it’s been a fun start to the year. So hopefully we can keep winning ballgames, that makes everything a little bit better. But yeah, everything’s great.
DZ: I see you came from Tampa and knew Rocco Baldelli already. Is there anything you can share with us that maybe the average person doesn’t know about him that isn’t publicized a lot?
CRON: Well, he’s a stand -up guy. What you see is what you get with Rocco. He’s a good guy. He kinda let’ us be ourselves. He doesn’t try to force anything on to us, but is also super smart when it comes to baseball and the decision-making process. Yeah, he’s been great the first few weeks here and I’m excited to work with him the rest of the way.
DZ: Were you surprised at all after you had a pretty good year in Tampa, to be DFA’d?
CRON: I think under normal circumstances I would be, but the year before I got traded (to Tampa), they DFA’d Corey Dickerson in the same move. He was an All Star that also hit upper-20’s homers so, it’s, I guess I wasn’t in complete shock, no.
DZ: You kind of had all the ups and downs at age 29. You’re first round pick, you’ve been traded (and DFA’d). What’s the secret to your resilience?
CRON: Just enjoying the game and just form the bonds with your new teammates is always fun. You don’t really have another option. There is nothing else you can do besides just keep playing baseball and keep trying to impress people, that’s kind of the mentality I take.
DZ: Did you talk to Tyler Austin at all about this? He kind of went through a similar situation. He did pretty well here last year too and…got DFA’d.(on April 6).
CRON: I was pretty close with TA in spring training. He was one of the first guys I started talking to, since we play the same position and always taking ground balls…He was a great dude. I mean he knows how it works, I guess. He knew he would either get picked up or someone was going to trade for him. Sometimes it works out for the best and in his case, I think it was good for him (Austin was traded to San Francisco on April 8).
DZ: What’s it like being a teammate with Nelson Cruz?
CRON: Nelly has been great, having been with the Angels for five years or however long I was there, he pretty much killed us when he was with the Mariners. So, it’s nice that he is on our team now and being able to watch him hit, watch him go about his business, it’s been a pleasure so far.
DZ: Couple of real quick things. I know you basically come from really big baseball family. Your dad played in the majors for a little bit, played pro ball, your brother’s in pro ball, your cousins with (former Twins catcher) Chad Moeller. How competitive is your family?
CRON: Yeah, we are competitive for sure. I don’t think it’s anything personal obviously, but it’s always fun to just do your best. I guess coming up being in a baseball family helped me kind of learn the game a little bit faster than most kids so, I think I was blessed with that and I guess it was kind of what I was meant to do.
DZ: Just one last thing, I read, I think I was looking at your Twitter page and I didn’t realize (former major league pitcher) Scott Sanderson was your agent (Sanderson passed away on April 11). What kind of guy was he?
CRON: He was awesome. The news wasn’t very easy when I first came out obviously, but Scott was a stand-up guy, he was a great person and it sucks and its sad that he left us so soon.
See more of David Zingler’s 2019 athlete interviews:
February 2: Caleb Truax