Ruan smoothes rough edges, aims for big league shot

Wilkin Ruan can run and throw with the best of professional baseball players, but the 51s outfielder has been stuck in the minors for most of his 11-year career and is a prime example of how tough it is to make the major leagues.

Despite showing flashes of greatness in the minors — Ruan set the Las Vegas franchise record with five stolen bases in one game in 2003 and gunned down three runners in a game earlier this year — the 28-year-old has played only 33 games in the big leagues and hasn’t reached that level since 2003, when he hit .220 in 21 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“Wilkin’s physical tools are as good as any player in this organization,” 51s manager Lorenzo Bundy said. “He can run, he can throw, he can hit for occasional power, and he’s a good outfielder defensively, but he hasn’t been able to consistently put it all together in the last few years.”

Ruan, who leads the Pacific Coast League with 20 outfield assists this season despite not joining Las Vegas until June 9, was named the 51s’ team Most Valuable Player in 2003, when he hit .308 and stole 41 bases in 49 attempts.

But the Dodgers released Ruan in June 2004 after he hit .209 for Double-A Jacksonville.

The Kansas City Royals signed the 6-foot, 185-pound Ruan shortly thereafter but released him after 2005. The Dominican Republic native rejoined the Los Angeles organization last season.

Ruan, whose main weakness is hitting, batted .260 last year and earned Southern League All-Star honors for Jacksonville and then hit .325 in 10 games for Las Vegas.

Ruan, who entered this season with a .273 average and 300 steals in the minors, was called up to the 51s after batting .289 for Jacksonville. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the 51s’ 6-3 win over Tacoma on Wednesday at Cashman Field and is hitting .281 in 70 games for Las Vegas.

“I’ve been working extremely hard with (hitting coach) Mike Easler trying to get my swing down,” Ruan said through an interpreter. “I’ve definitely come a long way with my hitting, to the point where I can be productive in the big leagues.

“I’m working on a lot of things in the game, offensively and defensively, that in the past I didn’t perform well at, and I’m hoping those little adjustments will get me over the hump and get me another opportunity up there.”

Bundy said Ruan plays the game as hard as anyone.

“On one play this year, he fouled the ball off his foot. The umpire didn’t call it, and they threw the ball to first. I asked the umpire, ‘When have you ever seen Wilkin Ruan not run out a ground ball?’ The umpire said, ‘You’ve got a point there,’ ” Bundy said. “I just wish he could be more consistent with the bat.

“He has lapses where his strike zone awareness is not good and he swings at bad pitches. Those are things he needs to improve on if he’s going to get back to the big leagues.”

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