Carlos Ruiz (baseball)
|Philadelphia Phillies – No. 51|
January 22, 1979 |
David, Chiriquí, Panama
|Bats: Right||Throws: Right|
|May 6, 2006 for the Philadelphia Phillies|
|Runs batted in||336|
|Career highlights and awards|
Carlos Joaquín Ruiz (born January 22, 1979) is a Panamanian professional baseball catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies of Major League Baseball (MLB) who possesses nicknames including Chooch and Señor Octubre. He grew up in David, Panama, and resolved to play in MLB after tragedy struck his family, with his father and grandmother both dying during the course of two weeks when he was seven years old. He toiled threw the Phillies' farm system from 1998 until 2006, playing at each level, until finally making his MLB debut in 2006.
He spent his first full season in the major leagues in 2007, and has remained there since. In 2008, for his heroics in the Phillies playoff run, during which they ultimately won the 2008 World Series, he garnered the nickname "Señor Octubre", and was called the "heart and soul" of the team, despite being one of its quietest players. Over the next few seasons, he was a part of the core group of players that led the Phillies to five consecutive playoff appearances from 2007 until 2011. He had his best season in 2012, holding a batting average of over .300, earning his first appearance in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and finishing in the top 30 of the National League Most Valuable Player voting. In 2013, he began the season with a 25-game suspension for using Adderall, and ultimately played in less than 100 games for the first time in his MLB career.
Ruiz grew up in David, Panama the oldest of three sons to a father who was a police officer, and mother who was an elementary school teacher. When he was seven years old, his father Joaquin was patrolling in his police jeep and a tire blew out, causing the vehicle to flip, throw Joaquin into a ditch, and then crush him when it fell on top of him in the ditch. At age seven, Ruiz became "the new father", beginning to work as a laborer on a coffee farm to supplement the family income, while promising his widowed mother that he would make it to Major League Baseball.
In 1998, Ruiz followed his dream of playing professional baseball first by attending the Phillies Baseball Academy in La Vega, Dominican Republic, at which he played catcher for the first time, deviating from his initial position of second base. Though ready to quit because "he looked and felt like a 10-year-old among the tall, athletic prospects surrounding him at the Phillies' baseball academy where he'd just begun", his uncle convinced him to stick with it via a phone conversation, and ultimately, he continued. The Phillies signed him as an amateur free agent on December 4, 1998, and made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) with the DSL Phillies, with whom he compiled a .305 batting average, 4 home runs, and 35 runs batted in (RBIs) in 60 games. The next year, he progressed to the Gulf Coast League (GCL), playing for the GCL Phillies, and hitting .277 in 38 games. He earned another promotion in 2001, playing for the Lakewood BlueClaws of Class A. After performing commensurately to his first two seasons in 2001, he moved to the Clearwater Threshers of Class A Advanced, with whom he played over parts of the next two seasons – he struggled at the plate in 2002, compiling just a .213 batting average in 92 games, but hit .315 in 15 games in 2003, thus earning a promotion.
In 2004, Ruiz spent his entire season with the Double-A Reading Phillies, where his 17 home runs were second among catchers in the Eastern League. In addition to strong offensive numbers, he threw out 25 of 76 attempted base stealers (32.9%). Off the field, it was in 2004 that Ruiz first gained his nickname "Chooch" – though a quiet individual, Ruiz frequently muttered "chucha" ("the equivalent of the f bomb in his native land") under his breath, and teammate Anderson Machado thus began to address Ruiz as "Chooch", and the nickname's usage compounded itself from there. His strong performance earned him another promotion in 2005; he played for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons, and posted a better batting average, but fewer home runs than in Reading – .300, 4 home runs, 40 RBIs in 100 games. Before the 2006 season, he played for his native Panama in the first World Baseball Classic. His final season in the minor leagues was 2006; during 100 games, he hit .307 with 16 home runs and 69 RBIs, earning International League all-star accolades. He "shuttled between the Phillies and Scranton/Wilks-Barre all season", and made his MLB debut on May 6, 2006.
Philadelphia Phillies (2006–present)
Ruiz initially was called up to the major league level when Phillies' starting catcher Mike Lieberthal went to the disabled list (DL) in May 2006, making his debut on May 6. However, when Lieberthal went back to the DL in June, the Phillies utilized Sal Fasano and Chris Coste rather than recalling Ruiz.
The Phillies signed Rod Barajas before the 2007 season because they had some concerns about Ruiz' ability to catch, hit, and generally hold up over a full season at the major league level; however, those concerns were dispelled. Barajas' injury left an opening for backup Chris Coste on the Phillies' roster, but Ruiz played 115 games in 2007. After Barajas left for Toronto in 2008, Ruiz sat atop the depth chart at catcher and played in 117 games for the Phillies helping them win their second straight NL East title.
In 2007, Ruiz hit six home runs and compiled a .259 batting average. He had one of the highest fielding percentages in baseball among catchers with a .997, with only 2 errors in 744 chances. On June 26, 2007, Ruiz stole home on the front end of a double steal in an 11–4 home win over the Cincinnati Reds, becoming the first Phillie to steal home in 10 years and the first Phillies catcher to steal home in 25 years.
By 2008, Ruiz had taken over as the Phillies' starting catcher. On October 25, 2008, in Game 3 of the 2008 World Series, Ruiz hit his first postseason home run off Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Matt Garza at Citizens Bank Park. In the ninth inning, he recorded a walk-off single, sending Eric Bruntlett home from third, becoming the fourth National League player to hit a bases-loaded walk-off hit in World Series history, the first to deliver a walk-off infield hit, and the first walk-off of any kind by a Phillies player in the World Series.
In 2009, Ruiz had a fielding percentage of .996, while posting a .255 batting average with nine home runs.
In 2010, he became the only player of Panamanian descent to catch a perfect game, and raised his season batting average to a career-best .302.
Ruiz caught Roy Halladay's perfect game on May 29, 2010 against the Florida Marlins and Halladay's no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds in the first game of the National League Divisional Series on October 6, 2010. In so doing, he became the first man since the Chicago Cubs' Randy Hundley in 1972 to catch two no-hitters during the same season (Burt Hooton and Milt Pappas) and the first since Yogi Berra in 1951 to catch two no-hitters by the same pitcher during the same season (the New York Yankee caught both of Allie Reynolds' no-hitters). On August 12, 2010, when the Phillies were down 6–2 going into the 8th inning, they scored 4 runs in the 8th inning. The following inning, the bottom of the 9th, the Phillies were tied and Ruiz hit a walk off double to win the game, 10–9.
Ruiz returned for the Phillies' 2011 season as their everyday starting catcher. He posted a .283 batting average, 6 home runs, and 40 RBI. His batting average was second on the team trailing only Hunter Pence.
Ruiz hit the ground running in the 2012 season, and almost immediately became the one of the Phillies' best players. Through June 27, he led the Major Leagues with a .364 average. His stellar first half of the season earned him a spot as a reserve on the National League All-Star team, though some analysts, including ESPN's John Kruk, felt his numbers warranted a starting nod (which ultimately went to the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey through the fan voting).
On November 27, 2012, Ruiz was suspended for 25 games without pay by the MLB for testing positive for an amphetamine. The suspension of Ruiz was effective at the start of the 2013 regular season. He made his 2013 season debut on April 28 against the New York Mets at Citi Field. On May 20, he was placed on the DL with a Grade 2 strained hamstring.
After the season, Ruiz became a free agent. He re-signed on November 21, 2013.
Also in 2010, Ruiz received the Pride of Philadelphia Award from the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. Roy Halladay has said Ruiz is the rock behind the plate, and presented him with a replica of his Cy Young Award in 2010.
In 2011, Ruiz was rated the most underrated catcher in baseball by Jayson Stark, of ESPN. One scout in the MLB quoted, "I think he's the best catcher in the game – other than [Joe] Mauer, who's on a different planet."
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- Greenberg, Jay (February 28, 2013). "Ruiz reinstated for series finale vs. Mets". MLB.com. Retrieved February 29, 2013.
- Zolecki, Todd. "Chooch on DL, Could Miss 3–4 Weeks". mlblogs.com. Retrieved May 21, 2013.
- Zolecki, Todd (November 21, 2013). "Phillies bank on Ruiz's return to form". mlb.com. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
- "Topps announces the 49th annual Topps Major League Rookie All-Star Team". KansasCity.Royals.mlb.com. Major League Baseball. November 26, 2007. Retrieved November 26, 2007.
- Go to 2010 This Year in Baseball Awards and click on "X-Factor" for results and video. MLB Advanced Media, L.P. Retrieved 2011-09-05.
- Hagen, Paul (March 26, 2011). "Halladay presents Ruiz with replica of Cy Young prize". Philly.com. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
- Stark, Jayson (January 21, 2011). "Jayson Stark's All Underrated Team". ESPN.com. ESPN.com. Retrieved March 7, 2011.
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