SARASOTA, FLA. — Rio Ruiz couldn't help but look at the spring performance of some of the players the Orioles recently cut and wonder what it meant for himself.
With Austin Hays and Anthony Santander sent out of camp for more seasoning in the minors, that left Ruiz as one of the last standout performers who is trying to win a job out of camp.
Ruiz entered Tuesday batting .297 with a .941 OPS while playing strong defense at third base. But he finds himself with a minor league option that could mean he loses the third base competition to Renato Núñez based on factors outside his control instead of performance. He said he has to understand that if that's how it plays out.
"I'm going to have to, you know what I mean?" Ruiz said. "But hey, it's ultimately their decision. They put the team together, and we all know at this point in baseball, it's a business. Wherever I end up at the start of the season, I'm going to put my best foot forward and go from there.
"I don't know. when you stop trying to play [general manager], you stop trying to figure out what guys are going to do. When you start trying to figure out what guys are going to do, that's when you're wrong a majority of the time. You see the guys that they sent out, and you realize how good of a camp they actually were having, and how good of ballplayers they actually really are, and what they showed that they're capable of doing throughout their long careers. It definitely is eye-opening, but at the same time, they've got a job to do. They've got to put the best team together and take everybody up north."
Ruiz isn't taking on a defeatist attitude as much as taking a clear look at what might happen, and understands there's a full week of games remaining before anyone has to make a decision. Both Ruiz and Núñez are turning 25 early this season, and in an organization that is trying to collect as much talent as possible, getting rid of Núñez — who hit .275 with seven home runs in the second half last year — is something the Orioles would prefer to avoid.
For another player who has had a slow spring, outfielder Cedric Mullins, more consideration is being given to what he showed last year in the majors than what he’s done this time around. It’s easy to view Núñez in the same vein.
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In lieu of counting major league wins, this week, we’re counting down five players whose performance in the majors this year can go a long way toward judging the first year of the Elias-Brandon Hyde era of Orioles baseball. The second on that list is outfielder Austin Hays.
"Without nitpicking, I think I've done pretty well for myself," Ruiz said. "I feel like I've done everything that I've been asked to do, and for myself, I think I've executed my plan so far. There's still a week full of games left. I've still got to finish strong, and I have full intention of doing that. … I came into camp with a clean slate and a new opportunity and I'm just trying to take full advantage of it."
Rain cancels Twins game
The Orioles’ game against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday at Ed Smith Stadium was canceled because of rain. Tickets can either be exchanged for any of the remaining four home games at Ed Smith Stadium on the day of those games, or automatically refunded for those who purchased through StubHub or are season plan members.
Before the rainout, Opening Day starter Alex Cobb was scheduled to make his final appearance of the spring Saturday against the Twins. Dylan Bundy was Tuesday’s starter, followed by David Hess, Josh Rogers and Mike Wright.