KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Randy Ruiz had grown to expect that a phone call from his team's front office meant only one thing: pack your bags and get ready to move on to a new franchise.
But after being released five times in 11 minor league seasons while playing for 10 different organizations, Ruiz hopes he's finally found some stability with the Toronto Blue Jays.The Blue Jays cleared a way for Ruiz to be a part-time first baseman and DH behind Lyle Overbay and Adam Lind after the team optioned Brian Dopirak to Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday.Ruiz walked but was held hitless for just the second time this spring as seven Houston pitchers combined to throw the team's third exhibition shutout in a 3-0 win over the Blue Jays on Friday.Though his path to the Opening Day roster appears to be clear-cut, Ruiz says he wont be complacent."You never feel comfortable," the 32-year-old infielder said. "I just go out there and play hard. You never know what can happen in this game. I have my plan and my plan is to go out there and drive in some key runs and key hits and show some leather."Ruiz made an impression on the Blue Jays last year when he hit .320 with 25 homers and 106 RBI for Las Vegas before batting .313 with 10 home runs in 33 games after an August call-up.He built on that momentum by playing for Indios de Mayaguez in Puerto Rico during the winter. He also played for Puerto Rico in the Caribbean World Series. Between Mayaguez and the series, Ruiz hit .347 with eight home runs and 31 RBI in 32 games. He also shed 24 pounds in the process.His work and dedication has showed this spring. He's hitting .424 with two home runs and seven RBI in 33 at-bats."I got a little upper-hand because I played all winter," he said. "I've been working on a lot of things. They noticed what I've done and maybe in couple of weeks I get rewarded by staying on the team."Jason Burgeois tripled and scored in the first and Cory Sullivan hit a solo home run in the second to account for all of the scoring.Both of the scheduled starting pitchers were late scratches.Blue Jays starter Brandon Morrow was warming up in the bullpen when he experienced soreness in his right shoulder. He was removed as a precautionary measure.Morrow was acquired from the Mariners this offseason and is slotted to be the Blue Jays No. 3 starter. He has made just 15 major league starts in his three-year career."We just weren't going to take any chances with him," manager Cito Gaston said. "We think he's going to be a big part of this organization and we just weren't going to chance it."Gaston said the team will re-evaluate Morrow in a few days before deciding what his next step will be.Stephen Register started in Morrows place and gave up two runs in three innings of work. Jeremy Reed and Sean Ochinko each had two hits to pace the Blue Jays offense.Bud Norris couldn't start for the Astros due to a stomach flu. The flu has been going around camp the last few weeks. Carlos Lee was feeling ill Thursday and sat out Friday's game, and catcher Jason Castro missed time last week with an illness.Josh Banks started in Norris place and got the win after holding Toronto to two hits and a walk in three shutout innings.
Astros leadoff hitter Michael Bourn was a late scratch due to a mild oblique strain he sustained during batting practice. Bourn said he's been advised to sit out hitting drills for the next two to three days. ... Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings Friday against minor league hitters in Dunedin. McGowan hasn't pitched in a regular-season game since July 8, 2008. He had shoulder surgery to correct a torn labrum and then missed all of 2009 due to setbacks and left knee surgery.