Luis Cruz isn’t about to be caught without his shin guard again. After fouling a ball off his ankle last month and missing two weeks, the Yomiuri Giants infielder isn’t taking any chances.

“I always wear one,” Cruz said. “Most of the time I wear one, but that day was a rainy day and it was just like, nothing’s going to happen today. After that, I’m going to wear it, even in the shower.”

He returned to the Kyojin on Friday, in time for the start of a three-game series against the Tokyo Yakult Swallows at Tokyo Dome.

“It feels good to be back so soon,” Cruz said. “Everybody expected it to be longer, so that makes me happy. I’m just going to do everything I can to help the team win. I know we struggled a little bit, but for me it’s a new start. I’ll start from today and see what happens.”

Cruz injured his left ankle during the first inning of Yomiuri’s game against the Hanshin Tigers on April 28, at Koshien Stadium. Cruz fouled off a 3-2 pitch from Randy Messenger, sending the ball directly into his ankle. The second baseman immediately went down in pain and left the field briefly for treatment.

“When it skips by, it doesn’t hurt that much,” Cruz said. “But when it actually hits you, you feel it. As soon as I felt it, I knew I was going to be out.”

Cruz returned to finish the at-bat, grounding out back to the pitcher, but was removed from the game shortly afterward. The Giants took him off the active roster the next day.

Despite fears he may have broken a bone, Cruz was diagnosed with only a bruised ankle. He played in a rehab game on Thursday, going 0-for-3 against the Chiba Lotte Marines’ farm team, before returning to the ichi-gun squad on Friday.

“Being back makes me happy,” Cruz said. “Whenever you get hurt, you don’t know when you’re going to get back. Being back after two weeks makes me feel good. My teammates were giving me a tough time, asking me, ‘how was your vacation,’ and stuff. I’m happy they think I can help the team in some way.”

Cruz entered Friday hitting .277 with four home runs and 15 RBIs for Yomiuri.

“It wasn’t fun waking up at seven in the morning to do treatment everyday,” Cruz said. “But I’m back, and hopefully I can help the team any way I can.”


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