BALTIMORE -- Justin Ruggiano is one of the Rays' feel-good stories of the season.
Prior to Spring Training, the 29-year-old outfielder was designated for assignment, along with Leslie Anderson, to make room for Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. Ruggiano cleared waivers, returned to Triple-A Durham, and kept his mind on baseball.
While at Durham, he batted .308 with six home runs and 30 RBIs before being selected by the Rays on May 20. He has now come full circle, playing well enough for the Rays that he hit in the No. 3 spot on Sunday against the Orioles.
"The batting order, you never know, you show up every day and you don't know where you'll be hitting," Ruggiano said. "But yeah, it's good, it's comforting knowing that I'm getting an opportunity to play on an everyday basis. It's a lot easier to play when you know you have the chances more consistently [and] you're able to make the adjustments. It's a lot easier to hit if you play every day, obviously."
Not only is Ruggiano a feel-good story, he can serve as an inspiration for anybody in the Rays' farm system.
"When you get a guy like him, who has been on the roster a long time, has been part of your situation, then you take him off the roster and he earns his way back on -- and now he's playing well and is a big part of what we're doing," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
"Our guys have to understand when we tell them that this is the way it is right now, but we haven't forgotten you. We still like you. If you go back out and do the right things and the match is right, we'll bring you back up."
Ruggiano went 1-for-4 on Saturday, and was hitting .290 with two home runs and seven RBIs heading into play on Sunday. He also robbed J.J. Hardy of a home run late in Saturday night's 7-5 win over Baltimore.
Maddon said Ruggiano "definitely feels more like he belongs right now."
"He does look more relaxed," Maddon said.
"That's an example maybe of maturity. He might fall under that category."
Latest extra-inning win encouraging for Rays
BALTIMORE -- Manager Joe Maddon talks a lot about how an extra-inning road win is a good indicator of a team being a championship-caliber club. The Rays claimed their second extra-inning road win of the current road trip on Saturday night.
Evan Longoria, who had the winning hit on Saturday, spoke of this year's team.
"We're a pretty tight-knit group from the get-go," Longoria said. "And I think from pitch No. 1 until the game ends, we're going to keep fighting. I don't want to give you the cliché answers. But it's been fun with this group, trying to win ballgames. I don't think anybody is really looking at the road trip we're on. I think we're just looking at one day at a time and go home possibly with an over-.500 road trip at this point. We've got to play well, but it was a big win [on Saturday night]."
Zobrist starting to heat up
BALTIMORE -- Ben Zobrist went 4-for-6 on Saturday night, with three doubles, a triple, and four runs scored. His four extra-base hits tied the club record (sixth player to do so) for a single game. He also became the second player in club history to have four extra-base hits and score four runs in a game.
Zobrist is now hitting .268 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs, and is feeling quite comfortable at the plate.
"I feel more in control of my body, like my head's not moving as much," Zobrist said. "Just putting good swings on it, and trying to have the right kind of approach up there. [Saturday night] was a great night. I was able to hit some balls hard the other way and pull a couple down the line, as well to right field. So I feel good."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.