Notes: No stopping Rio; first roster cuts made

March 1st, 2020

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Before he came to Baltimore, consistent playing time didn’t come easily for .

In his three-year stint with the Braves, where he began his MLB career, Ruiz recorded just 169 at-bats. In one year with the Orioles, he amassed 370. But that change still didn’t come with immediate results. The 25-year-old slashed .235/.307/.328 before making adjustments to fuel a comeback second half, during which he produced a league-average .766 OPS (100 OPS+).

Ruiz’s growth with the bat has carried over into the Grapefruit League, highlighted in a 3-for-3 performance in a 3-2 win over the Phillies on Sunday at Spectrum Field. His leadoff double in the second inning set up the game’s first run, then he belted his first spring homer to left field in the fourth before singling in the fifth.

The performance puts him at 10-for-15 with three extra-base hits in five Spring Training contests, and while that doesn’t mean mission accomplished, Ruiz sees the results as a step in the right direction for his main goal right now: consistently barreling the ball.

“I think last year I went through stretches in which I did that, and then I followed it up with stretches where I went “1-3, “3U” [on the scorecard],” he said. “So I went into that with that mindset, working on things that will get me to a position to do that.”

Instead of making adjustments to his game, Ruiz said he’s actually minimized his approach and tried to have just one plan at the plate each at-bat. He credits the tweaks he made to his game preparation while becoming a more everyday player to increased comfortably since the midpoint of last year.

“The results are a byproduct of the work you put in,” Ruiz said. “So I’m just going to continue with all that, and obviously there are going to be a lot of adjustments needed to be made throughout the course of the season, and I’m looking forward to making those.”

And even though Ruiz has limited competition at the hot corner, with the likely backup, he’s not taking anything for granted this spring.

“I feel comfortable with the club, [but] there’s still work to be done,” he said. “I’ve still got to win a job, and I’m just trying to do my best right now to do that.”

First cuts made
Shortly after the Orioles’ Sunday win, the club trimmed its Major League camp roster by five, the bulk of which was represented by top prospect talent.

Left-handers Zac Lowther (Baltimore’s No. 10 prospect, per MLB Pipeline) and Alex Wells (No. 15), as well as infielders Rylan Bannon (No. 18), Mason McCoy (No. 25) and Malquin Canelo, were reassigned to Minor League camp. The Major League roster now sits at 64 players.

Of all the prospects cut, Bannon arguably had the most success in Florida. In seven games, the 23-year-old went 3-for-10 with a double and a homer, scoring five runs to pair with three RBIs. Lowther, who has yet to record an ERA above 2.55 at any stop in his three years as a pro, rebounded from a rough four-run debut to fire a scoreless inning Sunday against the Phillies. Wells has yet to pitch in a game, while McCoy and Canelo recorded just one hit each.

Perfect enough?
Orioles ace John Means made easy work of a quality Phillies lineup on Sunday, working three perfect innings with names like J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Didi Gregorious occupying the batter's box. (The team, for its part, held Philadelphia hitless through five innings.)

However, Means was frustrated by his fastball command. Thankfully, he has a cure for that.

“My changeup was kind of my get out of jail free card,” he said, “so it was one of those outings where I fell behind a lot, but the changeup is the equalizer.”

Means induced 113 whiffs on his changeup in 2019, tied for the 18th most among Major Leaguers. Based on Sunday’s performance, the offering is in midseason form.

“He’s still working on the breaking ball that showed well again today, but yeah, the changeup,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He got a lot of bad swings, a lot of guys out in front on [it].”

Up next
The Orioles will host the Rays at Ed Smith Stadium Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET, with slated to start. , one of Baltimore's top candidates for closer in 2020, is expected to make his spring debut after complications with the flu have set him back this spring. The action will be broadcasted live on MASN and MLB.TV and available to hear through Gameday Audio.