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A’s batting average leader sent down because he ‘needs to get on base,’ GM says

The Oakland Athletics are off to a slow start in 2024 with a 1-4 record through five games. 

Considering their young roster, it’s the start many expected.

One player did well to start the new season, but he’s not being rewarded for it. 

Instead, he’s been demoted. 

Esteury Ruiz, one of the top young players in the organization, went 3-for-7 with a triple and one RBI during the A’s opening series against the Cleveland Guardians. The outfielder’s .429 average was the best on the team — until he wasn’t on the team anymore. 

Oakland sent him down to Triple-A, and general manager David Frost explained the decision. 

“We talked about Esty a couple of times during the spring,” Frost said, via MLB.com. “Where he fits in the lineup, on this team and the importance of him playing every day. Seeing through the first four games, that wasn’t going to happen here.

A’S UNVEIL RENDERING OF PLANNED LAS VEGAS STADIUM

“Cutting down on strikeouts and getting on base are things that we talked to him about all last season. He did make some good adjustments this spring. We saw an improvement in his exit velocity and some better at-bats. But the reality is, to use his skills, he needs to get on base.

“He needs to be able to do that on a consistent basis. I’m hoping with him leading off every day in Triple-A it’s not a long stay for him down there.”

While roster moves are normal for teams in MLB, the A’s are catching flak for it considering they’re not expected to be a good team this season. They went 50-112 last season and 60-102 in 2022. They could use all the help they can get to get wins, especially if a player starts off the season hot. 

Esteury Ruiz swings bat

But the A’s acquired outfielder Tyler Nevin off waivers Monday, and manager Mark Kotsay alluded to the fact Ruiz wouldn’t have made the team if not for Miguel Andujar’s injury in spring training. 

“We obviously claimed a new player today in Tyler Nevin,” Kotsay told reporters, via NBC Sports Bay Area. “In terms of roster construction, we started the season out with Esty. We had sustained a big injury with Miguel Andujar at the beginning of the year, which gave Esty an opportunity to be on this team to start the season.”

On top of roster construction, owner John Fisher’s hope to relocate the team to Las Vegas remains a controversial topic in Oakland. The divide that has been created between ownership and the fan base in Oakland makes moves like this fuel for those saying Fisher has no wish for the team to contend.

Some A’s fans are even convinced Ruiz and teammate Brent Rooker were demoted because they wore protest organizers’ apparel, a theory that has caught fire on social media. 

Rooker struck out nine times in 11 at-bats, which would explain why Oakland wants to demote him. But he was an All-Star last season after hitting .246/.329/.488 with 30 homers and 69 RBI, leading some to believe he deserved time in the bigs to work out the kinks. 

Esteury Ruiz looks out from dugout

Ruiz’s offensive numbers were good, but his defensive metrics, an area he’s been criticized for since last season, were not good to start the year. A prime example was a line drive from Guardians’ left-handed hitter Will Brennan, which had a 99% catch probability, per Statcast. Instead, the ball fell for an RBI hit. 

In five attempts this season, Ruiz has a negative 36% success rate, which includes misplaying another hit his way, Statcast says.

Ruiz’s demotion is the latest debate topic for a team with ownership and fans at odds.  

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