SEOUL-- Rio Ruiz, the first-year third baseman for the LG Twins, became the first foreign hitter to be sent down to the minor league Monday. And to hear his manager Ryu Ji-hyun tell it Tuesday, it could be a while before Ruiz is back in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
While on a season-high three-game losing streak, the Twins made a gutsy, if not entirely surprising, call by demoting Ruiz to the Futures League.
Ruiz has batted only .171/.247/.289 with a home run and five RBIs in 24 games. Those numbers just won't cut it for a team trying to end a 28-year championship drought. The Twins signed Ruiz to a one-year deal worth up to US$1 million, the maximum amount allowed for first-year foreign players, and Ruiz simply wasn't living up to that deal.
Once down in the minors, players must spend a minimum 10 days before returning to the KBO. But Ryu said Tuesday it wasn't yet set in stone that Ruiz will be recalled after his 10 days are up.
"We wanted to give him a change of scenery and a fresh start," Ryu said before hosting the Doosan Bears at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul. "Hopefully, he will start swinging the bat better. We will take our time monitoring his progress and make our decision (on his callup) later."
Ryu said Ruiz has done everything the team had asked him to do, except hitting.
"He has been a terrific teammate. He is just a great person, and he has built really good relationships with his teammates," Ryu added. "And it has been really tough to watch him struggle at the plate, knowing what a great guy he is and how hard he has been working."
"He has been trying to make an impression and do well in the new league," Ryu continued. "I am sure he is stressed out about the whole situation. But we expect this change of scenery will lead to some good things."
KBO teams can sign up to three foreign players, and no more than two pitchers. They typically sign two starting pitchers from overseas and fill the other spot with a slugger-type hitter who can bat in the middle of the lineup. Defense is often of secondary concern.
Ruiz has been an excellent defender at the hot corner by several metrics, but when a foreign player is in position to make the maximum $1 million in the first season here, that player has to start hitting at some point.
"I don't think this demotion came too early," Ryu said. "We decided having other players in the lineup will benefit the team more than having Ruiz play."
Source: Yonhap News Agency