OAKLAND -- Esteury Ruiz wasted no time showing his new team what he can do on the field and basepaths in the Athletics' 2-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Opening Day at the Oakland Coliseum.
The speedy 24-year-old prospect was acquired by Oakland in the trade that sent former A's catcher Sean Murphy to the Atlanta Braves in the offseason. Ruiz made the Opening Day roster, started in center field Thursday and made an immediate impact in the top of the first inning, robbing Angels star Mike Trout of a base hit with an impressive diving catch.
A's starting pitcher Kyle Muller, another prospect acquired by Oakland in the Murphy trade, was fired up by the play and has grown accustomed to Ruiz flashing the leather in the outfield.
"Oh man, that was great, because I thought I had punched him out on the pitch or two before that and then he hit it pretty hard," Muller told reporters after the game. "I thought it was in the gap.
"But he's made a couple plays like that for me, he's great out there."
The A's offense was ice-cold through six innings against Angels ace Shohei Ohtani, but it was Ruiz who jumpstarted an eighth-inning rally that eventually gave Oakland the lead. Ruiz led off the inning with a base hit to right field, eventually coming around to score after Tony Kemp's double, electrifying the crowd with his blazing speed and tying the game at one run apiece.
Ruiz displayed his impressive speed on defense and on the bases, which came as no surprise to A's manager Mark Kotsay.
"Yeah, and you got to see it firsthand on Day 1," Kotsay said. "We've seen some flashes in spring training with some catches that he made (that were) similar, but a great way to start his Oakland A's career off in center field.
"And offensively getting us going there and getting on base. You saw the speed and you will continue to see it."
It didn't take long for Ruiz to earn the respect of his veteran teammates. Having been around the rookie for all but two months, both Kemp and infielder Aledmys Díaz already know that Ruiz will be a very important piece for an A's team looking to exceed expectations this season.
"He is one of the most electric rookies that we have," Kemp explained. "He has the ability to change the game at any point. And obviously, in that first inning, that dive against Trout, that's an elite-level play. He's got a lot to bring, he's definitely a high-energy guy and I'm excited to see what he can do all season."
"He's a great young player," Díaz added. "I'm excited to see him out there and break the game and perform and he's going to be huge for us this year."
Ruiz still has a long way to go before establishing himself as the A's center fielder of the future, especially after Oakland cut ties with former outfield prospect Cristian Pache earlier this week.
However, if he's able to build off his impressive Opening Day showing, Ruiz quickly could become an important building block for a young team beginning yet another rebuild.