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Servais: 'Chooch' the 'consummate veteran'

Backup catcher shows pop with second homer of season
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

NEW YORK -- After playing 12 years in the Majors, catching four no-hitters and performing in two World Series, Carlos Ruiz could just be going through the motions these days as he nears the end of his career in a backup role for the Mariners.

Instead, the man called "Chooch" -- not just on Players Weekend, but every day by everyone who knows him -- continues working hard to stay prepared for his limited opportunities, and he took advantage on Saturday with a 2-for-4 day that included his second home run of the season in the Mariners' 6-3 loss to the Yankees.

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NEW YORK -- After playing 12 years in the Majors, catching four no-hitters and performing in two World Series, Carlos Ruiz could just be going through the motions these days as he nears the end of his career in a backup role for the Mariners.

Instead, the man called "Chooch" -- not just on Players Weekend, but every day by everyone who knows him -- continues working hard to stay prepared for his limited opportunities, and he took advantage on Saturday with a 2-for-4 day that included his second home run of the season in the Mariners' 6-3 loss to the Yankees.

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"He's the consummate veteran," manager Scott Servais said of the 38-year-old from Panama. "He knows how to prepare. We give him a heads-up a couple days ahead of time that he is going to play and who he's catching. He's ready to go. He gives us a great effort every time he's out there."

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But even for a catcher who has hit well throughout his career, limited playing time creates a challenge to stay sharp at the plate. With Mike Zunino performing well, Saturday was just the fifth time Ruiz has started in August, and he'd gone 0-for-13 with six strikeouts in six games this month.

Video: SEA@NYY: Servais on tough 6-3 loss to Yankees

So it felt good to connect on a 2-0 fastball from Sonny Gray and lift it into the left-field seats at Yankee Stadium for his second home run of the year and 70th of his career.

"I knew I hit it good, I was just hoping it didn't go foul," Ruiz said.

Ruiz's two-hit day was his fifth multi-hit performance of the season, as he lifted his average to .213, though well below his career mark of .264.

"It's definitely hard [playing a limited role], but we have figured out the way to stay ready when I get the opportunity," Ruiz said. "I've come the last two years in a new role. I work in the cage and try to keep my swing so I feel OK in games. I just have to continue to work and do my best with it, so when I have the opportunity to play, I can help the team."

And when he's not playing, Ruiz continues serving as an excellent mentor to Zunino, who is having his best season.

"He's doing a very good job behind the plate and hitting," Ruiz said. "He's worked very hard to produce for the team. He's learning, and it's fun to watch."

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Carlos Ruiz