TORONTO -- Randy Ruiz spent 11 years working to reach the major leagues. If the Blue Jays designated hitter had stuck with boxing, he might have made the big time more quickly: The burly rookie has already shown he can take a punch.
Ruiz returned to the lineup Tuesday, two days after he was knocked out of the game when he took a pitch in the face. A split lip is the only sign of the blow that left Ruiz on his knees, spitting blood on the turf.
"I tell you what, I was ready to come in the lineup yesterday," said Ruiz, who is batting .296 with six homers and 11 RBIs since he was called up Aug. 11.
"You can't break steel," he added.
Growing up in New York, Ruiz tried his hand at boxing and found his looks drew comparisons to one of the sport's greats.
"Everybody compared to me to Muhammad Ali because I have the chubby cheeks and the curly hair," Ruiz said. "There's a comparison but I really never boxed professionally. Maybe I should take up the sport in the offseason and see what happens."
Ruiz was batting with the bases loaded in the fifth inning of Sunday's game when an 0-2 pitch from Yankees right-hander Josh Towers ran inside and caught him on the cheek for a painful RBI. Ruiz didn't turn away soon enough to avoid the impact but said even ducking slightly may have saved him from a far more serious injury.
"It just grazed me," Ruiz said. "Fortunately I turned my head and, as I turned my head, I gave up some of the impact. I just thank God that I did that."
Ruiz suffered no broken bones or damaged teeth, had no vision problems and did not suffer a concussion.
"I took all the precautions," Ruiz said. "The doctors came over and checked me out, I went to the dentist today and checked to see that my jaw was all right. Everything is fine so I'm ready to go."
Undrafted out of high school, Ruiz was hit by pitches plenty of times during 1,088 career minor league games.
"I got hit in the helmet, the arm, the back, the thigh, everywhere else but never in the face," the 31-year-old Ruiz said. "That was a first."
Ruiz hit .320 with 25 homers and 106 RBIs at Triple-A Las Vegas before joining Toronto. He was hit the same day he learned he had won the Pacific Coast League MVP award.