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08/27/08 5:46 PM ET
Well-traveled Ruiz learning on the job
Rookie relishes first big league homer, strives to get better
By Kelly Thesier / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- On a night when a player hits his first Major League home run, it would seem like that homer would be the focus of his thoughts following the game. But after the Twins' 3-2 loss to the Mariners on Tuesday night, Randy Ruiz didn't want to talk about that first home run, but rather what he didn't do in the contest. Specifically, Ruiz was upset with himself about an at-bat he had in the fourth inning after Justin Morneau had led off with a double to right field. "I felt like we had some opportunities to score some runs -- like Morneau on second base with no outs -- and I couldn't get him over," Ruiz said. "I rolled over to short and he stayed at second. I felt like I didn't do my part." It's that type of attitude from Ruiz that manager Ron Gardenhire said has endured the 30-year-old rookie to the coaching staff. "He could be like, 'Yeah, I hit a home run,' but honestly, that's what we like to see and hear around here, because he's thinking about the things he didn't do when we lost the game," Gardenhire said. "That's one of the reasons we really like the young man. He's putting the team first. We're very happy for him hitting the home run, but he knows a couple of times, he could have been better." Gardenhire said he also talked to the designated hitter about his leadoff at-bat in the ninth inning. Rather than wait for a pitch outside that he could take to the opposite field, Ruiz once again swung at the first pitch -- a sinker, down -- and rolled over it for another groundout to the shortstop. "It's a learning process for him," Gardenhire said. "But he understands that and is paying attention." Despite having spent nearly 10 seasons in professional baseball before making his Major League debut with the Twins last month, Ruiz said he feels like he's still got plenty to learn. "I've been talking to Joe Mauer and Morneau, all the guys who can hit, and trying to pick stuff up from them," Ruiz said. "Of course I want to be an All-Star like they are, but I really want to just get better and better every day. I'm hoping that I can just learn from it and keep moving on." Ruiz, who entered Wednesday's contest vs. the Mariners batting .318 with six RBIs since he was called up on Aug. 1, likely will get his share of opportunities to show what he's learning. The right-handed-hitting DH was back in the starting lineup on Wednesday as the Twins faced the second of what projects to be six straight starting southpaws. He seems happy to keep learning, but there is also time to relish some of the positives. One day after hitting his first home run, Ruiz managed to smile a little more about it and what that meant to him. "I've waited my whole life to be here, and to have a moment like that was special," Ruiz said of his game-tying solo home run in the sixth. "This year has been unbelievable. Winning Rookie of the Year in the International League at 30 years old and then getting called up here, I'm thinking, 'Wow.' Stuff happens for a reason, and the man upstairs says this is my time to shine, so I'm happy."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.