ST. PETERSBURG -- When Justin Ruggiano was designated for assignment prior to Spring Training to make room for Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon, he didn't know what to make of his future.
"When you're taken off the roster, you're not really sure what's next," Ruggiano said. "For me it was the first time, so I'm just really grateful to be here."
His appreciation has been evident.
Tampa Bay's outfielder has taken full advantage of the opportunity since being called up from the Minors on May 20. He is hitting .372, with three home runs and nine RBIs in 43 at-bats this season. Those numbers include a 2-for-4 performance at the plate and a solo homer off Boston knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield in the Rays' 4-0 win Tuesday.
Ruggiano has played in Tampa Bay's last eight games and has recorded at least one hit in every one of them. He has posted a .484 batting average, to go along with six RBIs and five extra-base hits in that span.
"A big reason why I've been playing him so much is that he's not chasing pitches," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the one thing that stands out to me about him. He's not expanding his strike zone."
Maddon has seen "a different type of person" in the 29-year-old this season. The numbers back that statement up, as Ruggiano hit just .197 in 76 at-bats in 2008 -- his last stint with the Rays.
"He's looking like he can be a guy that can play more often than we have in the past," Maddon said. "That's all to his credit. There's nothing that I have done or we have done to get get him to this point. This is all Justin coming to a realization and doing something about it on his own."