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March 13, 2016

Ruiz's spring 'training' set to move to Panama

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Carlos Ruiz’s preparation for Opening Day will move into high gear this week – when he leaves Phillies camp to go home.

Ruiz and Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez are two of the most notable names of players taking a break from their major league team’s spring schedule to take part in the qualifying round of the World Baseball Classic in the coming week. Ruiz is flying to Panama City on Tuesday.

“Hopefully we can make it in,” Ruiz said Sunday morning. “But it’s going to be good competition with Spain and France. There are good players from every country, just like with Cuba and the Dominican.”

Panama, France, Colombia and Spain will compete at Rod Carew Stadium from March 17 to March 20, with the tournament winner advancing to the 4th World Baseball Classic, which takes place next spring. (MLB Network will be airing WBC qualifying games both Saturday and Sunday night).

Panama is 2-7 overall in World Baseball Classic play (but 0-5 in the main tournament).

If they advance to next spring’s main tournament, Ruiz, who turns 38 in January, said he would obviously be ready to compete again. Ruiz may still be looking for a job then, too – he is in the final guaranteed year of his contract with the Phillies (it includes both a $4.5 million team option and a $500,000 buyout for 2017).

As for this spring, Ruiz, competing with Cameron Rupp for the Phillies regular catching job, is about halfway through his usual workload. The veteran catcher, entering his 11th year with the team, is hitting .238 (5-for-21) with four RBI, four strikeouts, and two walks in eight games

In the previous two springs, Ruiz has played between 15-18 games and racked up between 42-45 at-bats.

“I’m feeling good, much better than I did last year,” said Ruiz, who reported to camp last spring four months removed from left shoulder surgery. “I feel like I’m ready to go nine innings.”

After going 1-for-2 with a run scored in the Phillies 8-5 win over the Blue Jays on Saturday, Ruiz was back behind the plate on Sunday in catching a minor league game (working with new veterans Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson). It was his first time this spring catching on back-to-back days.

Ruiz will still have a full two weeks to prepare for Opening Day when he returns to camp on March 21.

“I don’t know what (Panama manager and former MLB All-Star outfielder) Carlos Lee has in store for me,” he said, “but I’m ready to go.”

The trip home will also give Ruiz the opportunity to see his wife, Haidee, and his two sons. His youngest, Carlos, just turned 5 earlier this month.

His family is flying in to stay with him in Panama City.

“I don’t have time to go home,” Ruiz said. “It’s a 35-minute flight, but I have to stay near the games.”

Phillies minor league pitcher Harold Arauz, acquired in the December trade that sent Ken Giles to Houston, is also on Panama's roster