Randy Ruiz’s career had already taken him to a myriad of places by the time he signed with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles earlier this month.
Still, a move from the U.S. to Sendai can be an eye-opener for anybody.
“You know what, it’s different,” Ruiz said. “I’m liking it. I’m always up for something new. That’s the New York in me, the Spanish in me. We like to see new things. We like to explore instead of being in one place.”
The Eagles and Ruiz are still taking things slow, as the power hitter feels his way around the NPB in hopes of helping the team turn its season around.
Still adjusting and working out the kinks, Ruiz made a splash in his fourth game with the club on June 5. With his team trailing the Yokohama BayStars by a run in the ninth, he hit a go-ahead two-run homer that sailed clear out of Yokohama Stadium. The Eagles went on to win 5-4.
For an encore, he hit another pinch-hit blast the next night at Tokyo Dome against the Yomiuri Giants.
“I still a have lot of work to do,” Ruiz said. “I haven’t played in awhile. When I was in Toronto (with the Toronto Blue Jays), I was coming off the bench and I only got 40 at-bats. I just have to keep working at it. Hopefully my timing comes soon.”
Ruiz was drafted by the New York Mets in 1996, but played for nine different organizations before making his big league debut on Aug. 1, 2008 with the Minnesota Twins.
He was with the Blue Jays last season, when he was struck in the face with a pitch from New York Yankees hurler Josh Towers.
“It was 0-2, bases loaded,” Ruiz said. “I was diving and the next thing I know he tried to come in and brush me off. The pitch just kept on running up and hit me right in the face. No damage, no nothing. Just a sore lip, that’s it.”
Ruiz is embracing his fresh start in Japan and is still learning the ropes in the NPB. He’s had a rough transition thus far, batting .192 with two homers and four RBIs in 10 games.
“I’m just going to go out there and give it my all,” Ruiz said. “I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. Just going to go out there and learn from Yami (Takeshi Yamasaki) and Nori (Norihiro Nakamura).
“They’re the veteran guys here. They can help me out a lot. I’m going to talk to them, pick their brains a bit, and hopefully I can get rocking and rolling quick.”
Rightful heir: In all likelihood, a member of the Orix Buffaloes will be named interleague MVP, but Fukuoka Softbank Hawks left-hander Tsuyoshi Wada is the king of the NPB’s midseason competition.
Wada dispatched the Yomiuri Giants on Saturday to improve his record to 5-0 with a 2.18 ERA during the 2010 interleague campaign. Since the format was introduced in 2005, Wada has a NPB-best 18 victories.
Wada’s five wins this year leaves him with an overall 9-3 mark on the season and tied with teammate Toshiya Sugiuchi (9-2) for the NPB lead in wins.
Uncivil war: With the exception of a pair of makeup games, the NPB’s interleague schedule has ended with the Orix Buffaloes on top. The Buffaloes’ ascension marks the sixth straight year a Pacific League club has emerged as the interleague champion.
The Pa. League has dominated the interleague schedule this season, entering Monday’s makeup game with a 80-56 advantage.