Ruiz shows wisdom beyond years at plate

Braves' No. 15 prospect homers, reaches four times on five-RBI night

Rio Ruiz has 11 extra-base hits and 19 RBIs so far this month. (Brian McLeod/MiLB.com)

By Michael Leboff / MiLB.com | August 26, 2016 1:26 AM

Even though he's the youngest player on the Triple-A Braves roster, Rio Ruiz already has more than 500 games of professional experience. He knows the type of consistency and confidence it takes to succeed. 

Atlanta's No. 15 prospect homered, doubled and walked twice while driving in five runs Thursday night as Gwinnett topped visiting Buffalo, 6-4. 

"I've always said that age is just a number. If you can play somewhere and someone is younger than me and can play up here or even in the big leagues, that's where they should play," Ruiz said. "If you have confidence, you can play at any level. I've had confidence this entire year and the guys on the team have helped me build it up all season."

One thing the 22-year-old third baseman has been working on is finding more success against southpaws. Ruiz is slashing .198/.288/.225 against left-handed pitchers this season, compared with .294/.377/.466 against righties.

"The numbers aren't up to par with what I want against lefties, but I've been hitting them hard and haven't had any luck," the California native said. "That's just the way it's gone against lefties, so everybody all of a sudden thinks I can't hit them. Really, I don't have any problem -- I just don't seem to find the holes against lefties."

After working a walk to lead off the second inning, Ruiz sent a 2-1 offering from Buffalo starter Scott Copeland (3-2) over the right-field wall for a two-run homer in the third. 

"It was a good pitch over the plate and I got the barrel on it. It was a good enough swing to put it out," Ruiz said. "My approach has been the same the entire year. I've done some tinkering here and there to help battle through the grind of a long season, but I approach each at-bat the same way."

With the bases loaded and nobody out in the fifth, Ruiz was simply looking to send something to the outfield to extend the lead. He ended up clearing the bases with a double to left. 

"I was just trying to get something up in the zone that I could drive to the outfield," the 2012 fourth-round pick said. "I went after that one, it was a good enough pitch to put out that way. It found some grass and I was able to put some runs on the board for our pitcher [Jed Bradley], who threw a heck of a game."

In the seventh, Ruiz battled Buffalo reliever Bo Schultz for a nine-pitch walk to reach for the fourth time. In 122 games this season, the California native's slashing .269/.355/.403 with 10 homers and 56 RBIs.

He has played in at least 110 games in four straight seasons. 

"I work hard to be on the field every single day," Ruiz said. "I want to play every day, no matter who's pitching. I want to continue to get better, and the only way you can do that is playing every day and being in situations you may face down the road.

"I want to be in situations where the team's counting on me. My mentality is that I'm going to go out there every day and give it everything that I've got."

Bradley (2-0) allowed one run on five hits and four walks while striking out six over seven innings.

Buffalo third baseman Matt Dominguez went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs. 

Copeland surrendered six runs on nine hits and three walks with four strikeouts in five frames.

Michael Leboff is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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