'Taught me a lot': Classic preps Ruiz for high-leverage

March 21st, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The bar has been raised for following the right-hander’s strong performance for Venezuela during the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

It was manager Pedro Grifol who originally mentioned the loftier expectations, and Ruiz completely agreed with the assessment upon his return to Camelback Ranch on Monday before a 7-3 loss to the D-backs

“I know that all of them, all the coaches, were paying attention to me,” said Ruiz through interpreter Billy Russo. “I received text messages from Has [assistant pitching coach Curt Hasler], from [pitching coach] Ethan [Katz] and from Pedro, especially at the end congratulating me for the work that I did. I just wanted to carry that into the season.

“The WBC definitely brought [out] the best of me. I was able to compete and challenge other batters and see what I am really able to do, and I definitely boosted my confidence. It taught me a lot [about] how I can do things and how good I can be. I just want to help this team to win, to get to the postseason and hopefully to win a World Series.”

Ruiz, 28, enters the 2023 season with a career 1.029 OPS against over 37 games of high-leverage relief work and a 1.013 OPS against in 55 games of medium-leverage, according to Baseball Reference. He has excelled during 146 low-leverage appearances by allowing a .219/.303/.360 slash line in 585 plate appearances.

But every game, every inning thrown for Venezuela was high-leverage and even higher pressure. It’s a late-inning role Ruiz could develop into, beginning with his five strikeouts over 4 1/3 scoreless innings covering three games in the WBC.

“One hundred percent. It’s almost the path to high leverage, right?” Grifol said. “I equate that to 90 percent of the catchers who get to the big leagues. They almost always get there as a backup and they end up being a frontline guy.

“Who gets to the big leagues as a closer? Or high, high leverage guy? I think you get there and you start working your way up into that position. Now some guys get there quicker than others, and some guys it takes a couple of years. But I’ll tell you this, what he showed there shows the ability to pitch in some leverage. If that’s not leverage, I don’t know what is.”

was one of Ruiz’s strikeout victims, with the White Sox teammates facing off in the first inning of Team USA’s 9-7 quarterfinal victory Saturday night. Ruiz listed his scoreless work against the Dominican Republic in pool play as No. 1 among the many great WBC moments, but the Anderson strikeout also stood out.

“That was a very funny moment,” Ruiz said. “I didn’t know he was on deck until I saw him in the batter’s box. It was a funny moment. It was good because the competition, it was a healthy competition.

“He knew it too. And then afterwards, when he was at third base, I was messing around with him from the dugout. It was good.”

Colas' spring of development
Grifol wasn’t solely impressed by rookie ’ opposite-field home run Sunday against the Mariners. It was the way he bounced back in his fourth at-bat after an 0-for-3 day.

“That was maturity, that’s him growing,” Grifol said. “That’s him understanding [that] even if he’s not having a great day offensively or defensively … you can still impact a baseball game. And he did.

“That’s a great teaching moment for myself, our coaches and him. Just keep going. Short-term memory. You have the ability to impact the game until it’s over in many ways. He has a great at-bat, gets hit in the ankle, the shin -- twice -- and hits it out to left-center field.”

Colas finished 0-for-4 as the designated hitter on Monday.