Braves prospect Rio Ruiz projects to hit for power in the big leagues. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)
Photo: Michael Cunningham/AJC Mike Check
Photo: Michael Cunningham/AJC Mike Check

Braves call up Rio Ruiz for first time in 2018

Catcher Chris Stewart was designated for assignment to open a 25-man roster spot. Stewart was briefly recalled after Kurt Suzuki was hit in the elbow, but Suzuki looked healthy in his first game back Saturday. The Braves didn’t need to carry three catchers until rosters expand Sept. 1.

Ruiz, 24, was hitting .269 in 126 games with the Stripers. He hit .301 in his past 47 games, with two homers and nine RBIs in his past four contests.

Overall, he had 25 doubles, four triples, nine homers and 72 RBIs in 484 at-bats. He’s played third, first and the corner outfield spots. 

The Los Angeles-area product appeared in 58 major league games, 53 of which came a season ago when he temporarily served as the team’s primary third baseman after Adonis Garcia was injured. 

He hit .300 over a 10-game stretch before posting five hits in his next 50 at-bats, dropping him into a platoon role with then relatively unknown Johan Camargo. Within two weeks, Ruiz was back in Triple-A for consistent playing time.

The Braves traded veteran Brandon Phillips and Ruiz returned last September. He impressed in spurts and entered spring training in a competition with Camargo for the third base job. He’d spent the offseason under the tutelage of California-based hitting coach Doug Latta. 

He played some first base in spring trying to increase his value, though he slumped at the plate, producing a .206 average and .225 on-base percentage with six extra-base hits in 68 at-bats. Camargo opened the season on the disabled list, but the Braves added utilityman Ryan Flaherty just before opening day, ensuring Ruiz wouldn’t make the team.

Now the left-handed hitter provides depth and an extra bat off the bench. He was already on the Braves’ 40-man roster.

Ruiz has slashed .197/.283/.318 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 157 major league at-bats. He isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2021. 

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