Ruiz helps PR power past Mexico

Ruiz helps PR power past Mexico

MARGARITA ISLAND, Venezuela -- Randy Ruiz's key to a big Spring Training with the Blue Jays this year is showing up to Dunedin, Fla., smaller.

"[Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston] told me to be in the best shape ever, and that's why I'm working so hard," said Ruiz, who was listed at 240 pounds last year. "I've been working out and losing a lot of weight. I'm ready. I'm faster, I'm stronger and I'm lighter."

Ruiz was among the heavy hitters for Puerto Rico in Thursday afternoon's 5-3 victory against Mexico on the third day of play at the 2010 Caribbean Series at Estadio Nueva Esparta. Puerto Rico and Mexico each have records of 1-2 after three games. The Dominican Republic (2-0) and Venezuela (1-1) square off in Thursday's nightcap.

Ruiz finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs.

"I don't know if I'm going to be an everyday guy, but if I'm a bench guy I'll be ready when they put me in," he said. "I hope I can go into camp and win a spot. They know what I can do."

Ruiz hit .320 with 25 home runs and 106 RBIs for Las Vegas last year. In 33 games for the Blue Jays, he hit .313 with 10 home runs and 17 RBIs. He will be trying to earn a spot on Toronto's roster as a part-time designated hitter and backup first baseman. Ruiz can also play left.

"He's a good player and I like him, but I think sometimes he gets down on himself, and he can't do that," Puerto Rico manager Max Oliveras said. "He's a good kid and a big boy. He's a big leaguer."

Ruiz has several Puerto Rico teammates with the same Major League goal.

Luis Figueroa's path to the Caribbean Series is not uncommon at the round-robin. He signed with the Pirates as a free agent in 1997 and played in four games for Pittsburgh in 2001, at age 27. In '06, he showed up in the big leagues again, this time with Toronto for eight games. One year later, he played six games for the Giants.

He never made it back to the big leagues, and at age 36, his chances are slim.

Center fielder Jesus Feliciano, 30, shined for the Mets' Triple-A club in 2009, hitting .311 in 130 games. His teammate Michael Hernandez, 26, spent last season playing for Newark in the Independent League, and spent 2008 with the Mets at Class A. The designated hitter reached Double-A while with Detroit in 2007 but has never played at a higher level in the United States.

Puerto Rico left fielder Miguel Abreu, 24, has hope. He hit .290 with 45 RBIs in 130 games for Baltimore in Double-A. He also stole 25 bases.

Former Major League third baseman Vinny Castilla, who now works in the front office for Colorado, knows what it takes to stay in the show. On Thursday, Castilla went 1-for-4 for Mexico and is now hitting .333 in the tournament. Chris Roberson, who spent last year with Arizona's Triple-A Reno club, went 2-for-5 and sports a .357 batting average.

As for Ruiz, he feels much healthier than he did in the past, and as an added perk, his uniform fits much better these days.

"I haven't put myself on a scale yet, but I know I've lost a lot of weight since last year," he said.

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.