Rio Ruiz is raking, bullpen talk and O’s win streak notes

SARASOTA, Fla. - He is still not outhitting Chris Davis, but Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz had quite a day Sunday in Clearwater. In the 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, he went 3-for-3.

Ruiz hit all three balls hard, smacking a booming double to left in the first and a solo homer to left in the fourth. He pulled a line drive single into right in the fifth. He is now 10-for-15, batting .667 and trailing Davis, who is hitting .714 (5-for-7).

Ruiz-Base-Knock-Gray-Sidebar.jpgRuiz, who has a 1.625 OPS, has two doubles and a homer. Last spring he hit .283 with three homers and 10 RBIs.

“He’s driving the ball in BP,” manager Brandon Hyde said before Sunday’s game. “He looks bigger, he’s stronger. That was definitely a point of emphasis, to get some strength. He recognized it at the end of last year. He did that this offseason. Feel like he’s driving the ball really well and hope it carries over.”

Added Ruiz: “I think it is me minimizing my approach and having one plan up there. That is helping a lot. I’m just trying to stick with that. Coming into spring I just wanted to barrel as many balls as I can. You know there is still work to be done. I still have to win a job. I’m just doing my best right now to do that.”

Bullpen talk: Hyde spent time on the battle for bullpen spots during his pregame media session in Clearwater. He was asked if newcomers could break north with the club or if five or six spots are already mostly accounted for.

“I think that we would like to see those five or six guys - some of the guys in our bullpen last year, especially guys that went back and forth (between the majors and minors), think there is time for them to show improvement over last year,” Hyde said. “I think it’s great we have guys pushing those guys to step up. That is what I was hoping for all last year. I’d love to be able to define roles and feel like there are a bunch of guys that can pitch in a close game or with a lead. So, I’m hoping we have a ton of hard decisions at the end.

“I feel like they (several bullpen pitchers) still have things to prove. I mean, how many established guys do we have down there, really? I think you are always having things to prove, and I think all those guys should feel like they want to get better from last year and hopefully we have guys pushing them.”

The win streak is five: The Orioles have won five straight in the Grapefruit League after beating Philadelphia on Sunday at Spectrum Field. They are now 6-4 and have outscored their opponents 43-15 during the win streak.

After a three-game run when they scored 36 runs this past week, the Orioles entered yesterday’s game leading the Grapefruit League in hits (96) and total bases (156). They were tied for first with 12 home runs, and their .296 batting average was second. They were second to the Phillies in team OPS at .839.

After their outings on Sunday, lefty John Means has allowed two runs over 4 1/3 innings and right-hander Thomas Eshelman has thrown five innings, yielding one run. Reliever Eric Hanhold threw a third straight scoreless inning.

The Orioles host Tampa Bay this afternoon at 1:05 p.m. at Ed Smith Stadium in a game that will be televised live on MASN and airs live on the Orioles Radio Network. Asher Wojciechowski gets the start on the mound.

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