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Orioles' Rio Ruiz riding new routine to be team's hottest hitter in May

Jon Meoli
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Rio Ruiz, the Orioles' hottest hitter in May, has found that all those hitting coaches who preach consistency and routine just might be onto something.

With a home run in the Orioles loss to the Cleveland Indians on Thursday, Ruiz had hits in nine of his 11 games this month, giving him a .324 batting average with a .906 OPS in May and raising his season average to .256 — the highest it's been since the first weekend of the year.

He's found building a pregame routine that works for him with hitting coach Don Long and assistant hitting coach Howie Clark has been the key.

"I get here, I eat, do what I've got to do as far as the training room, stretching out, lifting if I've got to lift," Ruiz said. "Then I go straight to the cage. I usually go to the cage about an hour, hour, 10 minutes before stretch for BP and get all my stuff in. That's about it. I try to get here at the same time every day, and that's about it. Something so small turned into something big."

If it doesn't sounds groundbreaking, that's because it isn't. Every major leaguer and minor leaguer has a routine of some sort. It can be prescribed for a team or an individual, and it can be honed in different ways as a career progresses. Ruiz, however, speaks differently of this one, and it's working.

"It's the kind of things that if I'm not on that schedule, I feel off," said Ruiz, 24. "That's all it is, just finding a routine that works for you and continuing to do that."

As a proponent that good work will put him in position for good results, Ruiz is glad to be in the position he's in. There are certain baseball reasons, too. He's going to the opposite field far more in May than before, and replaced a chunk of his ground balls with line drives.

"I just see confidence at the plate," manager Brandon Hyde said. "I see a guy who's getting [at-bats] at the major league level. You start piling up at-bats and start to get some past experiences and can really go on some things. I just see a guy who's playing with more confidence. I thought he always played with confidence defensively, starting in spring training, and now I just see a guy that's taking better at-bats with a little bit more of an aggressive approach on balls in the zone."

As a player without much major league experience, the extended time with the Orioles this year has given him time to hone that. Hyde always talked glowingly about Ruiz’s swing; now, it's about learning to use it as best as he can.

"It's more approach and mindset at the plate, and feeling comfortable and understanding that he's such a good hitter the other way,” Hyde said, “understanding how to tap into your pull power, how to cheat at times, how to battle with two strikes. Just seeing major league pitching over and over again, and having some success, you're going to start feeding off some things and I think he's doing that.”

MASN arguments to be heard July 12

A New York judge has set July 12 for oral arguments in the long-running dispute between the Washington Nationals and Orioles over money from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the cable channel they jointly own.

Supreme Court Justice Joel M. Cohen on Friday accepted the schedule proposed by the teams.

The Nationals want Cohen to confirm an April 15 decision by Major League Baseball's Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee awarding the Nationals nearly $100 million, or about $20 million a year, in additional rights fees for 2012 through 2016.

The Orioles asked Cohen to put the matter on hold until the New York Court of Appeals hears their challenge to a New York Supreme Court Appellate Division decision in 2017 that sent the dispute back to the RSDC for a rehearing.

The RSDC's original 2014 decision was thrown out by a New York court because a law firm representing the Nationals also had represented teams of RSDC members.

MASN was established in 2005 after the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington and became the Nationals, moving into what had been Baltimore's exclusive broadcast territory since 1972. The teams share ownership, but the Orioles have a controlling interest.

On Straily's struggles

Hyde said the Orioles are "considering a bunch of things" with veteran right-hander Dan Straily, who had another short start Thursday and hasn't impressed since signing with the Orioles a week into the season. Straily, 30, has an 8.51 ERA and is averaging fewer than five innings per start.

With a long run of games without a day off, and Wednesday's doubleheader making it so the Orioles need a spot starter this weekend, the idea of moving him to the bullpen wasn't ruled out. But it didn’t seem they were at that point yet.

"Obviously we'd like to see Dan get back on track," Hyde said. "He's had not the success that he has wanted to have, so we're going to consider a lot of things. As of right now, over the course of this year with a lot of guys, this is like the land of opportunity. You're going to get opportunity here, and we're looking for guys to make the most of it. In Dan's case, we're going to explore all options."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

jmeoli@baltsun.com

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