Cruz would have preferred to be a starter in the majors, since he felt he would have had enough time to warm up properly and thus have better control of his slider and changeup. As a reliever he was forced to rely more on his fastball, and he was crushed by major-league hitters to the tune of a 6.47 ERA in his first season (1996) and a 5.67 in his second (1997). In 1998, he finally found a way to control his slider and held the opposition to a 3.07 ERA in 41 innings. In 2001, he became a Houston Astro along with Brad Ausmus and Doug Brocail in exchange for Roger Cedeno, Chris Holt, and Mitch Meluskey. He was a workhorse with his new team, appearing in 66 games and putting up a tolerable 4.15 ERA in 2001.