Keibert Ruiz found out on Saturday that he was going to make his big league debut the following day, and the 22-year-old needed only three pitches to make history.
MLB Pipeline's No. 79 overall prospect became the first Dodger in 26 years to homer in his first Major League at-bat when he mashed a solo shot to right field in the third inning, jump-starting an 8-3 victory over the Angels at Angel Stadium.
"I was waiting for the fastball and thank God I got it and made good contact" Ruiz told reporters after the game. "It's a dream come true. I'm just so grateful to be here."
"You just never know what's gonna happen when a guy takes his first Major League at-bat, and he just put such a good swing on it," Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts said. "So that’s a memory that he and his family will have forever."
Ruiz was recalled from the club's alternate training site on Saturday to take the place of Will Smith, who was placed on the Injured List with neck inflammation. The 22-year-old became the youngest catcher to start a game for the Dodgers since Dioner Navarro, who was 21 in 2005. Ruiz and 22-year-old starter Dustin May also became the youngest Dodgers battery since Navarro and Edwin Jackson on Aug. 22, 2005.
Ruiz and May have a rapport that dates to 2017 with Class A Great Lakes. The pair also teamed up with Double-A Tulsa in 2018 and Ruiz caught May with Triple-A Oklahoma City last July 28.
"Me and Keibert have gotten pretty close over the last three-ish years, and he’s a great guy and I really like the way that he calls a game," May said. "We’ve gotten pretty close and being able to throw to him and have the comfort level of being able to have thrown to him in the past, it was really nice to throw to him. ... I was just telling him to stay calm. It's very exciting when you’re making your debut, but the big thing is to stay within yourself, don't try to do too much. He knows that he deserves to be here, and he’s a great catcher and he’s going to be for a long time.
"People just want to get a hit in their first 'AB,' much less a home run. He went up there and showed out, it was phenomenal."
Signed by the Dodgers out of Venezuela in 2014 for $140,000, Ruiz became the seventh player in franchise history -- and first since Garey Ingram on May 19, 1994 -- to go yard in his first big league at-bat when he turned around an 88.4 mph fastball from right-hander Julio Teheran and deposited it into the empty seats in right. The blast not only knotted the score at 1-1 but ignited a seven-run outburst.
"I’ve been working a lot with all the coaches here to make adjustments and get better results, and I'm gonna keep working and see what happens," Ruiz said. "When I got to (the camp at) USC, I got more at-bats and I played better. I got taller, not jumping with my leg as much. ... I’m gonna keep focused on that and keep working, keep learning from these guys and from this team."
The switch-hitting backstop played his way to Oklahoma City last season and hit .316/.350/.474 with a pair of taters in nine Pacific Coast League games. Over 387 Minor League games, Ruiz posted a .299/.351/.420 slash line with 29 dingers, six triples, 76 doubles, 199 RBIs and 188 runs scored.
Ruiz also helped May navigate through 4 1/3 frames in which the righty allowed seven hits but limited the damage to two runs while fanning a pair.
"Keibert did a great job with Dustin today. Targeting the pitch sequences ... what a debut," Roberts said.
"Playing big league baseball is a joy in itself, but when moments like that happen it just takes everyone back to their first … it disconnects us from that moment, as far as the game, and just puts all the attention on the player, which is always special."
Dodgers No. 4 prospect Brusdar Graterol finished the fifth inning by retiring both batters he faced. Dennis Santana closed the door on the win with a pair of hitless innings. The 17th-ranked prospect worked around three walks and whiffed one to lower his ERA to 2.38.
Top Angels prospect Jo Adell notched his second career multi-hit performance with a 2-for-4 effort. The 21-year-old punched a single to right in the fourth and hammered a knock to left in the sixth. Adell has six hits through his first eight big league games.
In other action:
Phillies 6, Mets 2
Four games into his big league career, Alec Bohm had his first multi-hit day. MLB Pipeline’s No. 31 overall prospect singled and doubled, driving in the tying run in the sixth inning, as the Phillies completed a sweep of the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. After grounding out in the first inning, Bohm got both of his knocks off veteran right-hander Rick Porcello. The top Phillies prospect singled to left in the fourth before lacing a double down the right field line to plate J.T. Realmuto with the tying run sixth. One batter later, Bohm trotted home on Andrew McCutchen’s first homer of the season. Bohm was 2-for-10 after his first three big league games before matching that hit total on Sunday to lift his slash line to .286/.333/.429. Box score
White Sox 7, Cardinals 2
It was a tale of two Major League debuts for a pair of St. Louis pitchers. Both were unforgettable but for vastly different reasons. Roel Ramirez recorded two outs in the fifth inning but allowed Chicago to tie a Major League record with four consecutive home runs. St. Louis’ No. 29 prospect was charged with six runs on six hits and a walk. The 25-year-old struck out top White Sox prospect Luis Robert to begin the frame before allowing two singles, a walk and four homers to the next seven batters. No. 28 prospect Seth Elledge recorded the final out of the inning and fanned five over 2 1/3 perfect frames in his first big league appearance. Top prospect Dylan Carlson singled in four at-bats for the Cards. No. 19 White Sox prospect Danny Mendick singled in three at-bats, while Robert was 0-for-2. No. 28 Matt Foster worked around a single in the eighth and is unscored upon in his first seven big league appearances, including two starts, spanning 10 2/3 innings. Box score
Indians 8, Tigers 5
Indians No. 16 prospect James Karinchak struck out three in 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief. The righty has allowed one earned run over 11 1/3 frames in 10 appearances this season and sports identical 0.79 ERAs and WHIPs. Tigers No. 7 prospect Willi Castro was 0-for-4, while 16th-ranked Beau Burrows tossed a perfect eighth. The right-hander has not yielded a run in three appearances this month. Box score
Nationals 6, Orioles 5
Top Nats prospect Carter Kieboom singled, walked and drove in two runs to lead his club to a Sunday afternoon win in Baltimore. Kieboom has three hits in his last 10 at-bats after starting the season 6-for-27. Box score
A’s 15, Giants 3
After rallying from three-run ninth-inning deficits on consecutive days, Oakland broke out the broom in impressive fashion. James Kaprielian made his Major League debut and allowed a solo home run to Brandon Crawford on his third pitch before settling in. The No. 13 A’s prospect walked one and struck out one in two innings of relief. No. 2 Sean Murphy singled, walked twice and score two runs. Box score
D-backs 5, Padres 4
San Diego’s No. 19 prospect Jake Cronenworth singled in four at-bats. The 26-year-old continues to be a bright spot in the Padres’ lineup, batting .306/.358/.592 with eight extra-base hits and five RBIs in 17 games. No. 15 Jorge Mateo and No. 21 Edward Olivares combined to go hitless in five at-bats. Box score
Rays 3, Blue Jays 2
Toronto’s 25th-ranked prospect Thomas Hatch allowed an unearned run on two hits and a walk while fanning four over two innings of relief. Righty Jordan Romano, No. 30 prospect, was tagged with his first loss after yielding the go-ahead run on a pair of hits and a walk in the ninth. Box score
Rays 7, Blue Jays 5 (F/8)
Toronto’s 22nd-ranked prospect Anthony Alford launched his first homer of the year with a two-run blast off right-hander John Curtiss in the fourth that broke a 3-3 tie. Southpaw Anthony Kay (No. 11 prospect) was credited with his first hold of the year after yielding a hit and three walks while whiffing three in a scoreless frame of relief. Box score
Twins 4, Royals 2
Third-ranked Royals prospect Brady Singer suffered the loss after allowing a trio of runs on four hits and four walks over 5 2/3 innings. The righty whiffed a pair and sports a 4.56 ERA through five starts this season. Box score
Astros 3, Mariners 2
No. 14 Houston prospect Enoli Paredes and No. 29 Blake Taylor allowed a hit and a walk with three strikeouts in 1 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. No. 3 Abraham Toro was hitless in three at-bats and scored a run. Mariners No. 5 prospect Evan White walked, stole a base and scored. No. 20 Joey Gerber fanned one in a perfect inning of relief. Box score
Rob Terranova is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @RobTnova24.