CLEVELAND — Nelson Cruz packed up his big bat and joined a contender.

The Tampa Bay Rays acquired Cruz, one of baseball’s most proven sluggers, in a four-player trade with the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

Cruz was well aware of the likelihood he’d be dealt this month, with the disappointing Twins well out of contention. Nonetheless he told reporters the news still felt “shocking” and “heartbreaking” to him after becoming fond of the organization over his 2 1/2 seasons in Minnesota.

“It’s a tough one. I guess it’s a new chapter, and I will embrace it the way I embrace everything in my life to go help the Tampa Bay Rays to win a championship,” Cruz said.

Moments before opening a four-game series at Cleveland, the Rays, who entered the night just one game behind first-place Boston in the AL East, announced they got Cruz and minor leaguer Calvin Faucher from Minnesota in exchange for minor league right-handers Joe Ryan and Drew Strotman.

The 41-year-old Cruz has 436 career homers and 1,202 RBI. He’ll bring some needed pop to Tampa Bay’s lineup and should help the Rays against left-handers. They’re hitting .226 versus lefties.

Usually frugal Tampa Bay assumes $5.1 million remaining in Cruz’s $13 million salary. The Rays began the season with a $68.3 million payroll, 26th among the 30 teams.

The seven-time All-Star also has plenty of playoff experience with 17 homers and 37 RBI in 46 postseason games. He’s batting .294 with 19 homers and 50 RBI this season, and over 258 games with the Twins he finished with 76 homers and a .984 OPS.

“People joke about how he’s ageless, and it really does feel that way,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said.

With a week until the trade deadline and no shot at making the playoffs, the Twins figured they’d get something for Cruz to begin building toward the future. Minnesota entered Thursday at 41-55.

“He may be the best teammate I’ve ever seen in terms of the way he goes about his business, the way he puts his arm around people, the way he helps us become better in our front office jobs and coaching staff jobs,” Falvey said. “This guy is beyond special.”

A 17-year veteran, Cruz signed a one-year, $13 million deal with Minnesota in February. He has also played with Baltimore and Texas. He hit at least 37 homers per season from 2014-19. He belted a career-high 44 homers for the Mariners in 2015.

“We thought we should be in the playoff race,” Cruz said. “Never thought we should be in this situation. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. You never want to leave the places where you are, where you feel comfortable. It is what it is. That’s part of the business.”

Both Ryan and Strotman were in Triple-A Durham’s rotation.

Ryan, who will also pitch for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics, had a 3.63 ERA with 75 strikeouts in 57 innings for the Bulls and was ranked by MLB.com as the No. 10 prospect in Tampa Bay’s system. The 25-year-old was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018.

Strotman had a 3.39 ERA with 62 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings with Durham. The 24-year-old was the 17th-ranked Rays prospect after being drafted in the fourth round in 2017.

The 25-year-old Faucher had a 7.04 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings for Double-A Wichita. He was a 10th-round draft pick by the Twins in 2017.

ORIOLES: The Baltimore Orioles optioned infielder Kelvin Gutierrez to Triple-A Norfolk.

Baltimore acquired the 26-year-old Gutierrez from the Kansas City Royals this month for cash. He’s appeared in eight games for the Orioles since then.

In 70 big league games since 2019, Gutierrez has hit .221 with two home runs and 21 RBI.

WHITE SOX: One day after announcing he was stepping away from baseball, Yermin Mercedes was back with the Chicago White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate.

The White Sox confirmed the surprising rookie who carried the team with his booming bat early in the season and got sent to the minors following a prolonged slump was in uniform for the Charlotte Knights’ game against the Durham Bulls.

Mercedes also apologized in an Instagram post.

“I will never give up,” he wrote. “I last 10 years in the minor leagues. … My dream is (to) be a player established in the big leagues. … I apologize. … I love everybody. I’m back.”

It was a turnaround from his since-deleted post Wednesday night that included an image with the words “it’s over.” He wrote in the caption, “I walked away from baseball for a while. God bless you. It’s over.”

Hall of Fame Manager Tony La Russa vowed following Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota to reach out to Mercedes and insisted the player has a “big league future.”

“You’re at Triple-A, you’ve tasted the big leagues, you can get emotional,” La Russa said. “But I don’t know more than that.”

The 28-year-old Mercedes sparked Chicago’s offense through the opening months of the season, batting .415 with five homers and 16 RBI in 22 games in April. In May, Mercedes angered La Russa by homering on a 3-0 pitch in the ninth inning of a game the White Sox led 15-4.

Mercedes eventually cooled off, hitting .150 (16 for 107) over his final 31 games with Chicago before being demoted to Charlotte on July 2.

THURSDAY’S GAMES

RAYS 5, INDIANS 4: Austin Meadows hit an RBI single in the 10th inning to cap Tampa Bay’s comeback in a win at Cleveland.

Meadows’ one-out liner off Bryan Shaw (3-4) brought home Randy Arozarena, who began the 10th at second base.

Down 4-2 in the ninth, the Rays rallied to tie it against closer James Karinchak on a leadoff homer by Yandy Diaz and Brandon Lowe’s two-out RBI double.

TIGERS 7, RANGERS 4: Eric Haase hit a three-run homer in the first inning and host Detroit extended its winning streak to a season-best seven games.

Zack Short and Victor Reyes also homered for the Tigers, who completed a four-game sweep.

Texas has lost nine straight, equaling its longest slide this season. David Dahl and Isiah Kiner-Falefa each drove in two runs for the Rangers.

Kyle Funkhouser (4-0), the fourth Tigers pitcher, gave up one run in two innings. Starter Tyler Alexander allowed one run on three hits in 3 2/3 innings. Gregory Soto got the last three outs for his 11th save and third in as many days.

Texas starter Mike Foltynewicz (2-10) surrendered six runs, five earned, on five hits in four innings.

Haase’s 15th homer this season made it 3-0, and Victor Reyes hit a sacrifice fly in the second inning. Texas scored in the fourth on Andy Ibanez’s bloop single.

Detroit responded with back-to-back homers from Short and Reyes.

The Rangers pulled within 6-4 in the sixth on Dahl’s RBI single and Kiner-Falefa’s two-run single, but they never got closer.

PADRES 3, MARLINS 2: Blake Snell allowed one run in six-plus innings, Jurickson Profar had two hits and two RBI, and San Diego won at Miami.

The Padres’ left-hander scattered three hits, struck out eight and walked three in his longest outing since June 4, when he pitched seven scoreless innings against the New York Mets. Snell (4-3) had not gone past four innings in his two previous starts. He was lifted after allowing a leadoff double in the seventh inning to pinch-hitter Isan Diaz.

Fernando Tatis Jr. struck out three times and was hitless in four at-bats. He walked in the fifth, stole his NL-leading 23rd base and eventually scored on Manny Machado’s sacrifice fly.

ANGELS 3, TWINS 2: Jack Mayfield hit a three-run homer and Andrew Heaney finished seven innings for his longest start of the season, leading Los Angeles to a win at Minneapolis.

Heaney (6-7) gave up just four hits, two walks and two runs with seven strikeouts, the left-hander’s most effective appearance in six weeks. Heaney fell behind 2-0 in the fourth on an RBI double by Willians Astudillo and a run-scoring groundout from Gilberto Celestino, but Mayfield picked him up with his big hit in the following inning.

CARDINALS 3, CUBS 2: Kwang Hyun-Kim earned his fifth straight win on his 34th birthday and host St. Louis beat Chicago.

Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson homered as the Cardinals improved to a game over .500 at 49-48. It’s the Cardinals first winning record since being 36-35 after winning the first game of a doubleheader at Atlanta on June 20.

Kim (6-5) allowed two runs on two hits and a walk with seven strikeouts in six innings. His last loss came in the second game of the doubleheader on June 20.

BRAVES 7, PHILLIES 2: Dansby Swanson hit his first career grand slam, Orlando Arcia added a solo shot and Atlanta won at Philadelphia.

Charlie Morton (9-4) allowed two earned runs over six innings and struck out eight in his latest strong start. Morton has gone six or more innings in six of his last seven starts, with a 2.40 ERA during that stretch.

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