Oneil Cruz made quite the impression in his highly anticipated 2022 season debut.
Cruz’s elite play and multifaceted skill set were on full display throughout the Pirates’ 12-1 rout of the Cubs on Monday night in what turned out to be a record-breaking night for the 23-year-old.
Cruz showcased his powerful arm in the third inning after fielding a Willson Contreras groundout and whistling the ball across the diamond. According to Statcast, the throw came in at 96.7 mph, making it the fastest-thrown ball of any infield assist this season, as well as the third-hardest since the Statcast era began in 2015.
For more absurd context, the fastest pitch Pirates starting pitcher J.T. Brubaker was able to muster during his strong start was 94.5 mph.
“I knew it was hard,” Brubaker said of his teammate’s toss. “I didn’t know how hard it was.
“It’s like, ‘You had to do that to me? You had to throw one harder than I threw it off the mound?’ In the moment, it was just like, ‘Wow, that’s a cannon.’ It’s a lively arm.”
Cruz’s theatrics were not finished there. He went 2-for-5 with two runs and four RBIs to propel his team to a victory, scorching a three-run double in the third inning that had an exit velocity of 112.9 mph, the hardest-hit ball by a Pirate this season.
And, while running the bases, he clocked the three fastest sprint speeds of any Pirates player this season: 31.5, 30.7 and 30.2 feet per second.
Manager Derek Shelton couldn’t help but smile as he watched Cruz’s unforgettable performance from the dugout.
“When you start to see these kids come up – we’ve made some challenging moves – but to see them come up and start to piece it together, it makes you smile a little bit,” Shelton said.
Shelton wasn’t the only Pirate who couldn’t contain his smile. While running the bases during his bases-clearing double, a closeup camera caught Cruz grinning from cheek to cheek. There’s a lot to smile about in Pittsburgh, as Cruz and his record-breaking feats are showing no signs of slowing down.
“Whatever’s going to get broken is going to get broken,” Cruz said postgame.