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Ruiz Anxious To Show His True Talent

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ORLANDO, Fla.
—Space was so tight this year at Champion Stadium that several of the younger players have had to double up on lockers. Prospects Rio Ruiz and Braxton Davidson were among that group, with Dave Trembley, the Braves’ farm director, saying he wanted them to watch Nick Markakis prepare. "I can teach you how to play, I can teach you the fundamentals, but I can’t show you,” Trembley, who paired several other prospects with established big leaguers, said. "The best teacher is the guy who’s done it.”
Obtained from the Astros prior to the 2015 campaign, Ruiz endured a difficult first season as a member of the Atlanta organization. The third baseman batted .233/.333/.324 at Double-A Mississippi, including a first half with a .211 average and no home runs. "I definitely put too much pressure on myself to try to make a good initial impression,” Ruiz said. "I struggled early on and it seemed to get worse the harder I tried. Once I settled down, I was able to play my game.” A former two-sport standout in high school who also was recruited as a quarterback, Ruiz bypassed a scholarship at Southern California to sign as a fourth-round pick of the Astros in 2012. He led the California League with 37 doubles in 2014 while hitting .293/.387/.436. He also made some mechanical adjustments to his smooth lefthanded swing, with many scouts suggesting Ruiz could add more pop as his body matures. Despite his struggles last year, the Braves believe Ruiz has the ability to emerge as Atlanta’s long-term answer at third base. Kelly Johnson and Gordon Beckham are competing this spring for the starting honors with Adonis Garcia, who arrived in Florida as the favorite for the wide-open job. Ruiz, meanwhile, is expected to head back to Mississippi or to Triple-A Gwinnett. "Rio was one of the younger players in the Southern League last year and he made some adjustments and put up some solid second-half numbers,” said general manager John Coppolella. "He can flat hit, and he has the defensive abilities to play (third base) in the big leagues.” WIGWAM WISPS • The Braves signed Cuban righthanded reliever Carlos Manuel Portuondo to a $990,000 contract in late February. The 28-year-old Portuondo has not pitched professionally since 2013 after being suspended for trying to defect. • The Braves hired former all-star Andruw Jones
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as a special assistant to the baseball operations department. Jones will work with outfielders throughout the organization and be involved with some international initiatives.

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