Jaime Cevallos is a well known man around these parts. As co-star of the Zobrist code, he is widely credited for being part of the process that turned Ben Zobrist into Zorilla. Well if Cevallos is as good as advertised, we should be hearing a lot more from the "swing mechanic." In addition to working with Arizona Fall League breakout, Nevin Ashley, Cevallos has added Rays outfielder Justin Ruggiano to his growing roster of clients.
Ruggiano, 27, is pretty much at the same point in his career that Zobrist was when he and Cevallos connected. Never really a prospect, Ruggiano has accumulated nearly 100 unimpressive plate appearances with the Rays since 2007. He is mostly remembered for his fantastic game saving catch in late 2008 than anything at the plate.
A member of the Rays 40 man roster, Ruggiano, spent the entire 2009 season in the minors hitting .253/.330/.412. The .741 OPS is his lowest at any level (min .130 PA) since joining the Rays in 2006.With the urging of Zobrist, Ruggiano is hoping Cevallos can use his Mkanx system and get the most of out his stroke. "The difference between Jaime and other hitting coaches is that Jaime truly is a swing mechanic," said Ruggiano. "He has the ability to pick apart your swing and get you into the best possible hitting positions."
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A unique aspect of this partnership, rooted in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in which both reside, is the accountability being taken by Cevallos. Although Cevallos wouldn't get into the specifics of the deal, he did say, "There are bonuses involved based on his performance. It holds me accountable, which is the way I like it."
The pair started working out earlier this month and looking at the roster construction, Ruggiano is facing an uphill battle. Beside incumbent starters Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, the Rays outfield options include: Matt Joyce, Gabe Kapler, Fernando Perez and possibility, but less likely Desmond Jennings (at least early on). Zobrist could also be thrown in the mix if you like.
Many remain skeptical of Cevallos's success, but the only way to see if his teachings are the real deal or not is to increase the sample size. With Zobrist, Ashley, Ruggiano and Cincinnati Reds infielder, Drew Sutton, that size is slowly increasing. Time will tell if success will follow. Good luck to Justin and Jaime.