Notes: Enns proud; Cruz discusses Clemente

September 16th, 2021

Having no routine has become part of the routine for the last two months. Since being called up by the Rays on Aug. 3, he has been sent down and recalled three different times. He has made six appearances out of Tampa Bay’s bullpen, earning his first Major League save and win in his last two outings, with three Triple-A outings during that time.

But Enns knows, more or less, what to expect Thursday night. The 30-year-old left-hander is scheduled to pitch in a bulk-innings role at some point after right-hander Louis Head works as the Rays’ opener in their series opener against the Tigers at Tropicana Field. He’ll take the mound with his wife, Julie Anne, and a few other family members and friends in the stands, and he’ll approach it like he has every other assignment this season -- whether it was a start, a multi-inning appearance or a short-relief outing.

“The mindset is the same as coming out of the bullpen, where I just want to attack the hitters,” Enns said Wednesday morning. “My role is almost the same. I’m just trying to be as efficient as I can and really provide some length … so [I will] not change too much, and just really try and go after guys and be aggressive.”

Enns was initially listed to start Thursday’s game, but Head is now set to pitch first in his second outing as an opener. Enns, meanwhile, hasn’t started a game in the Majors since his big league debut for the Twins more than four years ago, but he can head into Thursday’s game expecting to provide some length. It’s been a “crazy whirlwind” of a journey from that point to now, as Enns has put it.

He thought he might have been done pitching professionally last spring after being released by the Mariners, stuck with it thanks to his wife’s encouragement, then soared from independent ball to the Rays’ alternate training site to Spring Training to Triple-A Durham and, finally, back to the big leagues. Now, all of a sudden, Enns might be auditioning for a postseason roster spot with the American League East leaders.

“I'm just trying to go out there and pitch as well as I can with the opportunity that I’m given,” Enns said. “Sure, it'd be great to be on the postseason roster, but we have to get there first. So my mindset is just [that] I'm given tomorrow, and let's attack that. In the situation that I've been in, you never know when you can get sent down or stay, so I'm trying to just take it one day at a time and let everything else kind of take care of itself.”

That’s worked well so far. In two multi-inning relief appearances this month, he has racked up nine strikeouts without a walk while allowing four hits over seven scoreless innings. On Saturday, he replaced the injured Chris Archer and struck out six over four no-hit innings in Tampa Bay’s 7-2 win over Detroit. He’ll face the same opponent on Thursday and should be built up enough to throw about five innings or 75 pitches, if needed.

“A lot of uncomfortable swings and at-bats,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Let’s pick up where he left off.”

Enns has found success by mostly relying on a four-seam fastball averaging 94.3 mph -- 4.5 mph harder than his heater clocked in at four years ago -- and a mid-80s cutter that hitters are batting just .160 against in the Majors this season. Enns said he has also benefited from essentially a reliever’s mindset, throwing his best stuff as often as possible rather than trying to “coast” through outings to conserve energy for later.

“It’s been so fun. Just the playoff push, you can feel it with the team,” Enns said. “This is an exciting team to be on, such a fun team, with the leadership that we have. And just to be a part of that is really special for me, and I'm happy to be here and really grateful of the opportunity given. I just want to make the most of it.”

Cruz honored by Twins’ Clemente Award nomination

Rays designated hitter wore No. 21 on Wednesday, when Major League Baseball recognized Roberto Clemente Day to begin Hispanic Heritage Month. It was a particularly meaningful honor for Cruz, who reflects Clemente’s legacy with his leadership on the field and his community-minded spirit off.

“It's definitely an honor. That number means so much for baseball and also a lot of players,” Cruz said. “It's something that we look for. He was the example for most of the players to give back to the community.”

Cruz has followed in his footsteps. The 41-year-old was named the Twins’ nominee for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award. He found many ways to give back in the Twin Cities, plans to do so in the St. Petersburg area and is deeply involved in providing for those in need in his hometown of Las Matas De Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic.

Asked about some of his involvement in the community Wednesday afternoon, Cruz spent more than 3 1/2 minutes just listing the ways he has worked to give back -- providing food and financial support in the Dominican Republic, donating a fire engine and ambulance in his hometown, building a police station and donating motorcycles for the city’s police officers, setting up an annual medical clinic and so much more through his Boomstick23 Foundation.

“People are paying attention when you do it. That's not the reason why you're doing it, but it definitely feels nice to be recognized,” Cruz said. “And to be nominated like that, it's an honor. The type of person that Clemente was on and off the field, because of what he was fighting for, he lost his life trying to help others. There cannot be a better example … [than] he was and what he means for baseball and especially all Latin players.”