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Why the Oakland Athletics demoted a .429 hitter to the Aviators

Updated April 3, 2024 - 1:28 pm

The Oakland Athletics are no strangers to curious personnel decisions, and their latest one benefits the Aviators.

Outfielder Esteury Ruiz was optioned to the Triple-A team this week by the A’s despite his hot start with the major league club. Infielder Tyler Nevin, claimed off waivers Sunday from the Baltimore Orioles, was activated in a corresponding move.

Ruiz was 0-for-4 with a walk in the Aviators’ 6-4 victory over the Sugar Land Space Cowboys on Wednesday.

The A’s are 1-5 entering Wednesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

“My message for Esty is, he’s going to go down, he’s going to lead off, he’s going to play every day. He’s going to go down and dominate that level. And those are my expectations,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said.

“He’s worked really hard. He’s continuing to work hard and buying in on the adjustments we’ve asked him to make. And now it’s just going down and showing us that those adjustments are going to lead to the offensive output that we’re looking for from him.”

The move was surprising to A’s fans — not to mention fantasy baseball managers — since Ruiz was hitting .429 (3-for-7) and had a 1.232 OPS with one double, one triple, one RBI and one stolen base in three games against the Cleveland Guardians.

Last season, the speedster stole an American League rookie-record 67 bases and was one of the few bright spots on a 112-loss A’s team.

Ruiz was one of at least two A’s players who have worn bracelets from Last Dive Bar in support of Bay Area fans protesting the team’s planned move to Las Vegas for the 2028 season. All-Star Brent Rooker, who also has worn merchandise from the bar, was recently benched after starting out 0-for-11 at the plate.

General manager David Forst and Kotsay said the organization wants Ruiz to work on getting on base more consistently while with the Aviators. Ruiz slashed .236/.295/.400 over 20 games this spring after posting a .309 on-base percentage as a rookie in 2023, and Kotsay revealed that Ruiz would have started the season in the minors if not for an injury to outfielder Miguel Andujar.

“Acquiring Nevin, it gives us a chance to have Esty go down and play every day, not sit here and come off the bench, as he’s done a couple of times,” Kotsay said. “Just give him an opportunity to go play every day and go down and really show these adjustments are going to lead to the success we’re looking for.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on X.

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