Rays' Ruggiano More Mature This Time Around





ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — The news wasn't any better, but at least Justin Ruggiano knew how to take it this time.

And, more than the torrid numbers he posted this spring, that might have been the most significant sign of the progress he's made.

Ruggiano knew coming into spring training there wasn't really anything he could do about his chances to make the Rays opening day roster, and even hitting close to .500 and playing excellent defense didn't change that.

But before he headed back to Triple-A Durham for a fourth straight season, Ruggiano showed he also had matured.

"I feel like I'm leaving here with my head up and knowing confidently that I'm ready, I'm ready for the next step, and I'm ready to stay,'' Ruggiano said.

When Ruggiano, 27, was sent down last spring, he took his disappointment on to the field, sulking through the first month with the Bulls and hitting just .189.

"It's not going to be something like I took last year where I was disappointed and I let it show in my play," he said. "I want to take the same energy and same attitude that I had here down to Triple-A even though it's a totally different atmosphere and more of a mental grind.''

Rays officials acknowledged the difference in his attitude and approach and expect, even though they kept veteran Gabe Kapler as the righthanded-hitting reserve outfielder, that Ruggiano will help them sometime this season.

"Right now, he's a major league outfielder,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "We just don't have the room."

COOL RAYS

• First baseman/outfielder Leslie Anderson, the first of two Cuban defectors signed by the Rays this spring, was expected to report to high Class A Charlotte by mid-April as the multiple issues regarding his signing and immigration status were resolved. Lefthander Sergio Espinosa's processing is ongoing.

• Outfielder Desmond Jennings, the Rays' top position prospect, isn't expected to make his season debut with Triple-A Durham until early May due to a left wrist sprain sustained during major league spring training.