March 12, 2013; Port Charlotte, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings (8) hat and glove lay in the dugout against the New York Yankees at Charlotte Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rays Winter Ball Recap: Jose Ruiz's 2 Homers Lift Ponce

Most two-homer games in baseball are of a certain nature. A star, or at least a player with potential, is on the top of his game for one day and crushes two misplaced pitches over the fence. Sometimes, though, a two-homer game can come out of nowhere, making you ask yourself “where did this come from?” The Leones de Ponce are asking themselves another question after Jose Ruiz‘s two-homer game: “any chance he does this again?”

Dominican Winter League: Aguilas Cibaenas 8, Tigres del Licey 2

Hector Luna, the Rays’ former Rule 5 pick had gotten off to a slow start in his first few games for the Aguilas. This game, though, he finally broke through. Luna went 2 for 3 with a double, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored, showing the type of ability he showcased for Cibaenas last winter. Luna is coming off a strong season in Japan, hitting to a .350/.399/.520 line in 356 plate appearances for the Chunichi Dragons, and after he appeared in the major leagues as recently as 2011, it will be interesting to see if Luna can catch on with a big league organization again if he so desires.

Mexican Pacific League: Mayos de Navojoa 5, Aguilas de Mexicali 4

Every time it seems like Russell Branyan is set to fall back to earth, he finds a way to muster a little more magic. The Aguilas lost this game, but that was not the fault of Branyan, who went 1 for 3 with a homer, 2 walks, and 2 runs scored. Branyan upped his line to a ridiculous .316/.481/.737 with 7 homers, 18 RBI, and a 13-18 strikeout to walk ratio in 77 plate appearances. Let’s put the homers and walks in perspective. The 7 homers are tied for 4th in the entire Mexican Pacific League despite the fact that Branyan has played in just 16 games, fewer than anyone else in the top 16, and no one in the top 43 has as few at-bats. The tiny number of at-bats also have plenty to do with his walks, which are tied for 9th in the MPL with no other player in the top 44 playing in as few games and no one in the top 50 making as few at-bats. Branyan has been unbelievable for Mexicali, and if he keeps this up, he may get one last chance in a big league organization.

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League: Leones de Ponce 5, Gigantes de Carolina 4 (12 innings)

This game lasted 12 innings, but it was the first four frames that were magical for Jose Ruiz. Ruiz, who entered the game hitting just .180, slamme went deep in the 2nd inning and again in the 4th as part of a 3 for 5 day with 2 home runs and 3 RBI. Ruiz has been stuck in Independent ball the last two yeras after a season each in the Rays and Rangers organizations, and his numbers this year with poor as he managed just a .272/.324/.357 line with just 5 homers in 512 plate appearances. He already has 3 homers in 62 plate appearances for Ponce. This game could be the moment where it all turns around. Jesus Feliciano went 2 for 5 with a run scored in the loss for Carolina. He is still hitting .360 on the RCPBL season.

Congrejeros de Santurce 7, Idios de Mayaguez 1

James Houser got the start for the Congrejeros and went 5.1 innings allowing just 1 run on 7 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1 and forcing a 7-3 groundout to flyout ratio. The former Devil Rays second round pick now has a 2.96 ERA in his first 5 starts for Santurce on the year. Despite being drafted back in 2003, Houser will only turn 29 next month and his career may still have some promise. He has followed up his strong season for independent Long Island Ducks with a good showing so far for Santurce, and best of luck to him as he tries to get back in affiliated ball. Also impressing for Santurce was John Rodriguez, who went 2 for 3 with a run scored.

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Tags: James Houser Jose Ruiz Russell Branyan Tampa Bay Rays

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