09/07/09 12:57 PM ET
Ruiz shining since callup despite shiner
Long-time Minor Leaguer OK after beaning
By Larry Millson / Special to MLB.com
Ruiz was not in the starting lineup for Monday's series opener against some of his old friends, but he is available to play despite being hit in the face by a Josh Towers pitch in the fifth inning of Sunday's wild 14-8 victory over the New York Yankees.
He was making his first start at first base in his brief Major League career. It was his 20th game with the Blue Jays and he played 22 games for the Twins last year. His face on the left side was slightly swollen after the game and he said he felt like a boxer as he sat on his chair in the clubhouse.
It was another occurrence in an eventful weekend that began with him being named the Most Valuable Player in the Pacific Coast League where he played with the Blue Jays' Triple-A team at Las Vegas before being promoted on Aug. 11.
In Saturday's game, Ruiz knocked the ball out of the park twice against New York's Andy Pettitte but only one counted as a home run, his sixth since joining the Blue Jays. The first time would-be homer against Pettitte on Saturday was taken away when the umpires' video review showed that it was just on the foul side of the left-field pole. His next time up, there was no doubt, as his drive left the park in left-center.
"You know what, it's a funny game," Ruiz said. "I came up next time and put it in fair territory. Whatever happens, I try to hit the ball hard and make something happen."
He admits that he thought at first that his first one was fair but realized it was foul when he saw a replay.
"I thought it went around it [the pole] you know, but after looking at video, it went a little bit left of the pole," he said. "But it came back fair and that's why I probably got a little mixed up. It was a good call. I had one, that's all that matters. I hit the ball hard and that's all that counts. "
When he was hit in the cheek on Sunday, it was his second at-bat of an eight-run inning. He had singled in a run in his first at-bat. Then he got another RBI when he was hit with the bases loaded. That was the farthest thing from anyone's mind as he went down hard and then spit out some blood. It was a frightening moment. But he was able to walk off the field and later returned to the bench.
"We were both battling and I just got hit," said Ruiz, saying he had no hard-feelings toward Towers. "Tomorrow's another day. When I was spitting blood I thought 'Uh-oh, I broke my nose.' I feel fine. I feel like a boxer that's all."
As for being named the PCL's MVP, he said. "It feels great especially contributing to the team and being [called up] here to Toronto. Hopefully one day I can be MVP of the year in the Major Leagues. That's one of the goals we all have as hitters. Right now, I want to be consistent. You learn every day. These guys are starting to get to know who I am and as the years go on I'll become a better, more patient hitter.
"I'm in a learning process. Hopefully, next year when I come in, I come in ready and in shape, and play left, first or wherever."
He has good memories of playing for the Twins and their Triple-A team at Rochester. "They were all great guys," he said. "[Michael] Cuddyer was pretty cool. [Francisco] Liriano, [Carlos] Gomez, [Alexi] Casilla. Everybody treated me well there. And I consider them all good guys. I thank those guys for giving the chance to play in the big leagues. It was pretty cool and I enjoyed the experience and now I'm enjoying the experience here."
At Las Vegas, Ruiz batted .320 with 25 homers and 106 RBIs. Last year with Rochester he won the International League batting title with a .320 average and was named IL Rookie of the Year.
His first two hits with the Blue Jays were home runs. The only other Blue Jay to do that was Doug Ault in the franchise's first game in 1977.
Ruiz entered the series against the Twins batting .296 with six homers and 11 RBIs.
"He's got some power," Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston said. "He's amazing because he's hit .300 just about everywhere he's gone."
The Bronx, N.Y., native was signed by the Cincinnati Reds as a non-drafted free agent out of Bellevue University in 1998 and Toronto is his 10th organization.
Larry Millson is a contributor for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.