Ruiz won’t knuckle under in first All-Star Game
KANSAS CITY – Carlos Ruiz was all smiles as he took in the All-Star experience Monday.
Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon were thrilled to see the Phillies' catcher, a first-time All-Star, enjoy it all.
“It’s pretty wonderful to see,” said Hamels, a three-time All-Star. “It really shows he’s been able to take it to another level. I know Doc [Halladay] and Cliff [Lee] would have loved to have been able to be here to see this. They definitely told me to watch out for him and make sure he enjoys it because it’s something that’s well deserved. I’m pretty excited to see it.”
Papelbon, at his fifth All-Star Game, knew little about Ruiz a year ago.
“I knew he was a short, Panamanian catcher,” the Phillies' closer said.
“I know he calls a great game,” said Papelbon, warming to the topic. “I know he doesn’t take his at-bats into his catching. I know he knows how to handle an entire staff. I know he works his butt off. All these things you don’t see from playing against him. He’s awesome, man. I love him. He’s a Panamanian redneck. I’m a United States redneck. So we get along.”
Ruiz, 33, is having a career season. He ranks fourth in the NL with a .350 batting average. He already has reached a career-high with 13 homers and his 46 RBIs are eight shy of his career high. Ruiz was selected by NL manager Tony La Russa. He is one of two catchers on the NL roster. San Francisco’s Buster Posey will start and catch Giants teammate Matt Cain.
La Russa indicated that Ruiz will enter the game with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. La Russa wants Ruiz to be able to warm up Dickey before he comes in. The two played catch on Monday.
Dickey travels with a special oversized catcher’s mitt and Ruiz will use it to help snatch those flutterballs. Ruiz actually has some experience catching floaters. In 2005, he caught knuckleballer Jared Fernandez at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, then the Phillies’ Triple A club.
“I’m ready,” Ruiz said.
He was talking about catching. Hitting Dickey is a different story.
“He’s tough, man,” Ruiz said. “I’d rather catch it than hit it.”
Ruiz traveled to Kansas City on a private jet with Papelbon and Hamels. The players brought their families. Ruiz’ mother and stepfather have traveled to the All-Star Game from Panama.
“This is a special moment,” he said with a big smile.E-mail Jim Salisbury at firstname.lastname@example.org