HOUSTON -- Texas A&M product Justin Ruggiano batted sixth for the Rays on Friday night in his first Major League game in his home state since 2008, when he played four games in Arlington.
Ruggiano, an Austin, Texas, native, has never played a regular-season game in Houston and said his parents and sister will be in attendance. He was hitless in four at-bats in a 5-1 win.
"It's fun getting a chance to see everyone," he said. "Usually during the season, you don't get to see the whole family."
Ruggiano finished the day hitting .316 this season and went 2-for-4 in the Rays' last series against Milwaukee, with a double, a run and an RBI.
"I've been having to do a lot of extra work to make sure I get my reps in, because I'm not getting the everyday at-bats," Ruggiano said. "But I've been playing a lot more than I have in the past, and it's been fun. I'm having a good time."
The left fielder said he was looking forward to being in the starting lineup in front of friends and family.
"Hopefully, I get to show out a little bit for the family," he said. "Regardless, tomorrow morning we'll go eat breakfast together, and it'll be the same family, just like it was Christmas and we were all together."
Zobrist has fond memories of time with Astros
HOUSTON -- The Astros drafted Ben Zobrist in the sixth round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, but the first time he played at Minute Maid Park was last year in a Rays uniform.
Zobrist, who was traded to Tampa Bay in a 2006 deal that sent Aubrey Huff to Houston, hit .538 with a home run and two doubles in his first three games at the home of his former club. He added an RBI single in the third inning as the Rays won, 5-1.
"I thought I would probably make it to the big leagues, if I was going to make it with any team, I just assumed it would be the Astros," Zobrist said.
He played alongside Astros right fielder Hunter Pence as a Minor Leaguer in Houston's system, and both players excelled.
Zobrist hit .339 with four home runs and 45 RBIs in 2004, while Pence hit .296 with eight homers and 37 RBIs. Both players also played for Class A affiliates Lexington and Salem in 2005 and combined to hit over .310 for the two teams.
"Me and Hunter played together since we got drafted until I got traded," Zobrist said. "We always had good teams. We won at every level we played at, and it was a blast."
Zobrist finished the day with hits in six of his past seven games, including four doubles during that span. He was hitting .310 in June with nine doubles in 22 games.
"I don't particularly feel that great at the plate, but I've hit the ball decent lately," Zobrist said. "It's been pretty inconsistent. It might feel like over the course of a long period of time I've hit well, but it seems to me like it's going a couple games good, a couple games bad."
Howell recovered after bout of gout
HOUSTON -- Rays reliever J.P. Howell missed Wednesday's game against Milwaukee with gout in his left foot but said he was ready to play Friday if called upon.
"He's fine, he just needs to control what he eats," said manager Joe Maddon. "It's very painful and it's unusual, but that's what he's got."
Howell has allowed one run in each of his past two outings after five straight scoreless appearances. Maddon said it should give Howell peace of mind to know what the injury is.
"You've got to just medicate it and maybe change your diet," Maddon said. "Not knowing what it is just plays on your mind. Now that we have definition, he feels a lot better about it."
Maddon said he would have a hard time dealing with the condition.
"He told me he's supposed to not eat red meats, eat seafood or drink red wine," Maddon said. "I would die in like three weeks."
Rowan Kavner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.