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Keibert Ruiz Overcomes Obstacles

Back in spring training, it seemed difficult for catcher Keibert Ruiz to find his way onto the Dodgers' major league roster. It only got more difficult.

Former Triple-A teammate and fellow catcher Will Smith had beaten him to the major leagues and entered this season as the starter, with Austin Barnes established as the backup.

Then the coronavirus pandemic shut down the sport and canceled the minor league season, leaving the 22-year-old Ruiz no Triple-A season to continue his development or impress decision-makers.

Just as the shortened season was getting ready to start, another challenge was thrown in Ruiz's path—he contracted COVID-19.

The 6-foot, 225-pound Ruiz had all of the familiar symptoms—a high fever, headache, loss of taste and smell. Thankfully, he didn't have to be hospitalized and did recover. But it delayed his arrival to summer camp and he found himself at the alternate training site.

But Ruiz, who signed out of Venezuela for $100,000 in 2014, impressed the Dodgers' coaching staff with his work ethic and the improvements offseason training had made to his body. When Smith went on the injured list with a neck injury in mid August, Ruiz got the unexpected call to the major leagues.

In his debut, he hit a home run in his first at-bat.

"Obviously that was my goal, to play in the big leagues," Ruiz said. "But whatever God gives to me I just focus on working hard and getting better every day."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he sees improvement in the switch-hitter even as his development continues.

"I think, for me, the biggest stride that he's made is in the lefthanded batter's box," Roberts said. "Nothing more evident than the swing he put on his first major league hit, the home run. (He got a) fastball, pulls his hands in, elevates the baseball to the pull side and backspun it.

"As he was coming up, the bat-to-ball was always good but there was topspin, there was coming around the ball, putting the ball on the ground to the pull side. That's something that (player development) and Keibert have really tackled."


— Righthander Tony Gonsolin was also late reporting for summer camp. He acknowledged that it was due to a positive coronavirus test about a week before the preseason workouts began.

"There’s no way to prove it, but I’m pretty sure I got a false positive," Gonsolin said. "I tested positive once and have not tested positive since then."

— Lefthander Victor Gonzalez has been called up to the big league roster twice and made his major league debut with an inning against the D-backs on July 31. Gonzalez was signed as a 16-year-old out of Mexico on the same scouting trip that landed Julio Urias.

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