He took a seat on a picnic bench, just outside the Phillies clubhouse at Bright House Field. Reporters and TV cameras surrounded him as planes buzzed overhead, generators whirred and wind whipped the palm trees nearby. The words coming from the typically soft-spoken Ruiz’s mouth were barely audible, but intentionally or unintentionally he repeated his message so everybody eventually heard what he had to say about his 25-game suspension following the use of Adderall, which is in violation of the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Ruiz got emotional at the end, his eyes welling up.
“Everybody,” he said, “I feel so sorry. It’s very difficult, having to explain. I love baseball. I love my city, Philadelphia, and Panama. I want to do my best and show everybody … I’ll do my best.”
Ruiz got caught twice using Adderall, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But Major League Baseball bans it because it is an amphetamine, unless a player receives a therapeutic use exemption.
Ruiz did not have the exemption.
“I got caught two times, and I have to pay for that,” he said. “I want to put that behind and now focus on this year and give it 100 percent for the city and organization.”
Asked if he would try to receive a theraputic use exemption for Addreall, Ruiz said, “That’s something that’s between my doctor and me. Major League Baseball has rules, and when you make a mistake, you’re going to pay. So I’ll pay my 25 games, and I apologize to my teammates, my organization, my family and fans, and I’m ready to put everything behind and get ready for the regular season.”
Ruiz will be able to participate in Spring Training workouts and Grapefruit League games in Florida in February and March. He also will be allowed to take batting practice before the gates open before regular-season games. He is eligible to begin a rehab assignment five days before the end of his suspension, which would be April 23.
He is eligible to rejoin the team April 28 against the Mets at Citi Field.
But what player will he be once he returns?
Ruiz, who will forfeit about $770,000 of his $5 million salary, had a career season in 2012, hitting .325 with 32 doubles, 16 home runs, 68 RBIs, a .394 on-base percentage, a .540 slugging percentage and a .935 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. But some will view those numbers skeptically considering the help he received artificially.
“I am working really hard,” said Ruiz, when asked if he can put up similar numbers without the help of amphetamines. “I trust myself to put up some good numbers. But at the same time, baseball is baseball. You have to work hard every day, and when you work hard, you get a lot of good things.”
Ruiz, 34, will be a free agent after this season, which means this is a big year for him. He hopes it ends better than it began Wednesday.
“I feel so bad for this,” he said. “I’m trying to put everything behind me and do my best this year and bring a championship back to Philadelphia.”