SAN DIEGO -- A day after ending an 0-for-17 skid and collecting his first two hits of the season, Luis Cruz was still smiling.
"I felt like the old me," Cruz said Thursday.
Cruz acknowledged he was excited when he singled to right field in his first at-bat the previous night.
"Almost as excited as I was when I got my first hit in '08," the third baseman said.
A.J. Ellis hit a home run in the at-bat that followed, but Cruz said, "I think I was more excited than him."
Cruz credited his father, former Mexican league standout Luis Cruz Sr., for helping him break out of his slump.
His father, who is visiting him from Mexico, frequently teased him.
"You want me to go hit for you?" Cruz recalled his father asking him at a recent game from his field-level seat at Dodger Stadium.
His father was trying to loosen him up. In more serious moments, he told him to calm down.
"You're just too excited," Cruz recalled his father telling him. "You're trying to overdo it."
The elder Cruz told his son he shouldn't try to prove that his overnight success last season wasn't a fluke.
"You have to relax and have fun," his father said. "If you go there and play and you don't have fun, it's not good."
Watching video of his at-bats, Cruz realized his father was right. His face looked tense.
"When I've been successful, it's been when I've been smiling and having fun," Cruz said.
Cruz thinks the tension was causing him to pull the ball.
"I'm not a big pull guy," he said. "I just pull by accident sometimes. When I see myself pulling balls, even some hard-hit balls, that's not me. Me is when I drive the ball to the gaps, to right-center."
His first hit Tuesday night was a sharply hit ball to right field.
The first week of the season held plenty of frustrating moments for Cruz, but it also provided one great reward: His father was able to see him play on opening day for the first time. A longtime minor leaguer, Cruz had made only one previous opening-day roster, in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
" 'I couldn't make it to the major leagues, but I see myself in you,' " Cruz said his father told him.
Carl Crawford started his eighth game for the Dodgers on Thursday.
In his seven previous starts, he played a full game only three times. He's still recovering from elbow surgery, and his throwing arm remains at less than full strength. So, in the other four games, Manager Don Mattingly replaced him in left field in the late innings with strong-armed Skip Schumaker.
But that could change soon.
"We're getting to that point where he's going to be ready to go full-bore," Mattingly said. "He's not a guy that I really want to take out, obviously."