Debut déjà vu: Keibert HRs in first AB -- again

May 4th, 2021

Before Tuesday’s doubleheader against the Cubs, the Dodgers recalled , the organization’s top prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. Ruiz replaced left-hander Mike Kickham, who was designated for assignment on Monday, on the active roster.

A few hours later, Ruiz launched a solo home run off Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks on the first pitch he saw this season. Ruiz is now 3-for-9 with two homers in his big league career and has homered in his first at-bat in each of the past two seasons.

“Keibert has been really good, and it kind of takes me back to his debut [last year], where the first swing he took was a home run,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts after the Dodgers’ 7-1 loss in Game 1 of Tuesday's split doubleheader. “He’s not afraid. He gets in there and gets his swings off. It infused a little bit of excitement into our dugout.”

This spring, Ruiz missed most of Spring Training due to visa issues. In his limited time at the plate, however, Ruiz went 5-for-6 and showed why he’s ranked No. 48 overall.

“He’s been very good at the [alternate training site], and he’s been obviously traveling with us on the taxi [squad],” said Roberts. “To get him active, I’m pretty excited about [it].”

Activating Ruiz gives the Dodgers three catchers on the active roster. Will Smith and Austin Barnes will continue to handle catching duties, but Ruiz gives Los Angeles a switch-hitting option off the bench, something it has lacked all season.

The Dodgers will have the designated hitter at their disposal over the weekend, when they travel to Anaheim to finish off a 10-game road trip. Roberts wouldn’t say if Ruiz’s callup is for a few days or for an extended period of time.

“I certainly trust him behind the plate. Our pitchers know him, have thrown to him time and time again, so we can kind of read and react,” Roberts said. “Right now, we’re in the mode of day to day, so we’ll see how it goes. Things can happen, things change all the time, so I don’t want to kind of put too much expectation on Keibert or for Keibert, so we’ll kind of see how it plays out.”

In 1,439 Minor League at-bats, Ruiz has posted a .299 batting average with 29 homers and 199 RBIs. In 2019, Ruiz hit .261 with six homers between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Pitching plans
After Monday’s rainout, the Dodgers decided to pitch Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of Tuesday’s doubleheader and moved Trevor Bauer up a day in order for him to go in Game 2. Walker Buehler, who was scheduled to start Monday, will now pitch Wednesday.

Roberts said the decision to move Buehler back was to give him a few extra days. He could also get an extra day before his next start, given the upcoming off-days.

“It’s just the opportunity that we felt to give him a blow and as the season progresses. I’m sure we’re going to do that with our other starters as well,” Roberts said. “That’s all there is to it.”

The Dodgers could have also opted to go with a bullpen game on Monday. Instead, they might go that route for Friday’s series opener against the Angels. With Dustin May out for the season and Tony Gonsolin and David Price still on the injured list, Los Angeles remains shorthanded in its rotation.

Bauer’s donations
Before the season, Bauer announced that he would donate $1,000 for every strikeout he recorded this season. With 51 punchouts in April, Bauer donated $51,000 to Think Together, which will help fund an afterschool STEM and robotics program for middle school students in southeast Los Angeles.

In May, Bauer will donate the money to the Just Keep Livin Foundation, which was launched by actor Matthew McConaughey and his wife, model Camila Alves, in 2008. That donation will go to the organization’s after-school fitness and wellness programming at Ánimo Inglewood Charter High School and Manual Arts High School in South L.A.

Minor League season returns
After almost two years, Minor League Baseball returns on Tuesday, a welcomed sight for everyone.

“It’s great, in every sense of the word,” Roberts said. “I’m so excited for the players, the coaches, for baseball. It’s good for baseball, it’s good for the towns that have the affiliates there. For me, I check up on our guys every night. And so I’m just as excited to start our season as this Minor League season. I really am. It’s great for these guys to play.”

Oklahoma City begins its season on Thursday with top pitching prospect Josiah Gray on the mound. Tulsa, High-A Great Lakes and Low-A Rancho Cucamonga all begin their seasons on Tuesday.