Houston Astros outfielder Jose Cruz will likely miss 5-7 days after suffering an injury during an exhibition game between the Astros and their AAA affiliate, the Charleston Charlies, in Charleston, West Virginia on August 3rd. Cruz, playing right field at Watt Powell Park, was hurt while diving for a fly ball off the bat of Charlies third baseman Rob Sperring in the eighth inning; the ball bounded past Cruz—after he appeared to stumble and fall on the natural grass surface—and rolled to the wall for a triple. Cruz then limped off the field after time was called. The Charlies went on to win the game 3-1.
Immediate medical reports indicate a ligament strain in the right ankle area, but a tear has not been ruled out, and Cruz will fly back to Houston ahead of the team for more tests. It will be the third time this season Cruz has been out of action due to injury; fellow outfielders Terry Puhl and Denny Walling recently went on the disabled list, and it remains to be seen whether Cruz will join them. Second baseman Art Howe, another Astros starter on the DL, is eligible to return to the team on August 6th.
“I hate these (expletive) exhibitions!” said irate manager Bill Virdon after the game. “It’s August, we’re in a (expletive) division race, I’m already down two starting outfielders, and now I’ve lost a third, all because of a (expletive) seven-inning carnival show!”
Cruz was replaced in right field in the exhibition contest by rookie Jeff Leonard, a recent call-up by the Astros from the Charlies, who went 1-for-2 with no errors in his first game with the parent club this season. He’ll join Cesar Cedeno and Jesus Alou in Houston’s all-substitute outfield when the squad travels from West Virginia to Texas, where they’ll begin a short five-game homestand at the Astrodome with a weekend series against the Braves.