Results tagged ‘ Darin Ruf ’
Ruben Amaro Jr. settled into one of the blue seats a few rows from the field Saturday afternoon at Turner Field. He munched on sunflower seeds as Scott Proefrock, one of his assistant general managers, sat in the row behind him.
The Phillies had two games remaining in their disappointing 2013 season, their first losing season since 2002, but it seemed as good a time as any to look back at the team’s misfortunes and discuss ways they can improve the future. In a wide-ranging interview with the team’s traveling beat writers, Amaro discussed everything from the heat he is feeling from fans, increasing the organization’s use of analytics in player evaluation, finding an everyday right fielder, payroll and making sure they do not enter next season crossing their fingers and hoping a multitude of things go perfectly to have a chance to win.
“I always feel under the gun,” Amaro said. “I put myself under the gun. I don’t listen to a lot of it. But listen, I’m the GM of the club, so I fully expect to take heat for it. I’m the one making the decisions on player personnel. I’m accountable for the things that have happened. I didn’t have a very good year; our team didn’t have a very good year. I think we win as a team and lose as a team. The fact of the matter is that I should take a lot of heat for it. I need to be better, and our guys need to be better. We need to evaluate better, we need to make better decisions and try to create a little better mojo overall.”
The front office has missed in its player evaluations in recent seasons. Once Jayson Werth left as a free agent in 2010, the Phillies entered subsequent seasons counting on Ben Francisco, John Mayberry Jr. and Delmon Young to be productive right-handed bats in the outfield.
Since they signed relievers Chan Ho Park and Jose Contreras to one-year contracts before the 2009 and 2010 seasons, respectively, free-agent relievers Danys Baez, Chad Qualls, Chad Durbin and Mike Adams haven’t panned out. The Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year, $50 million contract a couple years ago, but they found no takers before the July 31 Trade Deadline as his velocity and performance have dipped.
In the midst of that, the Phillies released reliever Jason Grilli from Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2011. He has been a force in the Pirates bullpen the past three seasons.
“We’re going to make some changes,” Amaro said. “I think we’re doing some stuff analytically to change the way do some evaluations. Look, we are going to continue to be a scouting organization. That said, I think we owe it to ourselves to look at some other ways to evaluate. We’re going to build more analytics into it. Is it going to change dramatically the way we go about our business? No, but we owe it to ourselves to at least explore other avenues. We may bring someone in from the outside, but we have not decided that yet.”
If you look at the projected Opening Day lineup you see many of the names you see today: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Cody Asche. That’s five left-handed hitters. You also have Jimmy Rollins, who is stronger from the left side of the plate. That has had a few people wondering if the Phillies could take a run at Cuban slugger Jose Dariel Abreu.
But one source said yesterday it doesn’t seem to be a fit because Abreu is a hulking first baseman and is not a candidate to play the outfield.
In other words, Ryan Howard is in his way. He has three years and $85 million remaining on his contract.
But so is Darin Ruf and Maikel Franco. Ruf has pop and can play first base. Franco is the organization’s top hitting prospect. He came up as a third baseman, but the Phillies are trying him at first base to give them more options. If Franco becomes what the Phillies project him to be they already have a right-handed first baseman with pop. And at a whole lot less money.
They released him today when he refused an assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Young was designated for assignment Friday when the Phillies decided rightfielder Darin Ruf needed regular playing time as they evaluate their needs entering the offseason. Ruf could be an everyday player in 2014 as he is one of the only right-handed bats in the lineup. He has been productive to this point, hitting .274 with seven doubles, six home runs, 11 RBIs and an .888 OPS in 124 plate appearances.
Young hit .261 with 13 doubles, eight home runs, 31 RBIs and a .699 OPS in 291 plate appearances.
He made about $1.75 million from the Phillies.
“He ended up having a couple different streaks where he swung the bat OK, but he really didn’t do the things we hoped he would do,” said Ruben Amaro Jr., who indicated he would take a shot again with Young. “I’ll say it again. I think at some point he may end up being a much better hitter. I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes back next year for somebody and has a much better year. You just don’t know how guys are going to react to certain situations or certain opportunities.”
Instead, they activated him a day early.
They designated Laynce Nix for assignment to make room for him on the 25-man roster. I thought the Phillies might release Delmon Young, making room for Brown in right to keep Darin Ruf in left. But they have decided to try Ruf in right field instead, pushing Young to the bench. It should be interesting. Ruf has never played right field before and had not played much outfield before this season. But I guess the Phillies figure Ruf can be as adequate as Young, maybe even a little better? I’m not sure.
But parting ways with Nix is another negative mark on the season in regards to the front office’s player personnel evaluations. The Phillies signed Nix to a two-year, $2.5 million contract in Dec. 2011, despite the fact he had never signed a guaranteed big-league deal before. Nix followed a two-year deal to outfielder Ross Gload. (I wonder if anybody else would have offered Nix or Gload a two-year deal.) The Phillies in November then non-tendered Nate Schierholtz because they figured they already had a left-handed-hitting fourth outfielder in Nix.
Schierholtz signed with the Cubs and enters tonight hitting .268 with 23 doubles, three triples, 14 home runs, 43 RBIs, a .500 slugging percentage and .827 OPS in 337 plate appearances. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his slugging percentage would rank fifth among 22 big-league rightfielders. His OPS would rank seventh.
Nix, meanwhile, hit .180 with four doubles, two homers, seven RBIs, a .258 slugging percentage and a .486 OPS in 136 plate appearances.
Now what is interesting is Schierholtz never would have put up those numbers with the Phillies because they never would have provided him enough opportunity to play. They were committed to Young in right field once he got healthy — they needed a right-handed bat in the lineup — and Charlie Manuel doesn’t make it a habit of playing his bench players unless absolutely necessary. They simply didn’t think Schiertholtz was good enough to warrant a spot on the roster, much less playing time. But the point is they missed badly on Schierholtz over Nix. Schierholtz was the much better player and they simply let him go.
This follows decisions like John Bowker over Brandon Moss, releasing Jason Grilli, believing Ben Francisco and John Mayberry Jr. could be everyday corner outfielders, Danys Baez, Chad Qualls, Chad Durbin, not developing a utility player in the system better than Michael Martinez, etc. Now it should be noted every front office makes mistakes. Remember that Pat Gillick acquired Adam Eaton, Geoff Jenkins and Freddy Garcia. But too many decisions lately have landed in the minus column than the plus column. Certainly injuries to players like Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Mike Adams, etc., over the past couple years have played a role in this team’s struggles. But those personnel decisions have hurt, too.
I can honestly say I have never covered a worse stretch of Phillies baseball than this. This is their worst 14-game stretch (1-13) since a 1-18 stretch Aug. 28 – Sept. 14, 1999. Just ugly to watch in every way.
Charlie Manuel expressed his frustrations last night. He has been handed a bad hand this season. If this is his final season with the Phillies — I suspect it is — then this is a sad way to leave.
On the offense:
“I think they’ve got to show more hunger, definitely when they’re hitting. Every guy in our lineup can square up one two or balls a night, sometimes they can square up three or four balls. And that’s how you get one or two hits and have a batting average. I don’t see no really getting after those at-bats. We look like we take it very casual. Like it’s ‘we’ll get ‘em next time.’ No, that’s not good enough. That’s what I see with our offense.”
On everything going south:
“I wish I could sit here and tell you we’re way better than that, but that’s what I’m trying to see — if they are better than that. You’re looking to see how good players are, I know I am.”
On another John Mayberry Jr. base running mistake:
“I can’t explain to you how the guy can be holding him on, how he can have a short lead, he doesn’t have what you call a lead at all and he gets picked off. I’m not throwing him under any bus or nothing like that. That’s what I saw.”
On mistakes like being picked off being inexcusable:
“That becomes inexcusable. When you’re playing like we are now, you’ve got to really be concentrating on staying focused and playing the game right and cutting down and eliminating mistakes. But at the same time, the more that you see mistakes and the more you see somebody keep making mistakes over and over and over and over, that might tell you what kind of player that he is. If I’m going to be responsible, I think other people have to be responsible too, especially the ones that play the game.”
On concerns younger players here might not learn right way to play because of the losing:
“I’m concerned about that, but also this is a game where you have to learn quick. Who to pick to talk to. It’s very important in any phase of life to find the positive people. Don’t be getting around nobody who is going to drag you down or be a whiner and stuff like that. If you want to be really good, I’m going to hang around somebody really good. I’ve seen some of those guys on the field that I’d hang around with. Someone like Mike Schmidt is going to be my buddy, not someone hitting the same as I’m hitting. I’m going to hang around with someone who’s better. I’m going to run around with (Harmon) Killebrew or Bob Allison and them. That’s who I ran around with and they were pretty good.”
I wonder if the Phillies will make a roster move to keep Cody Asche and Darin Ruf in the lineup once Domonic Brown rejoins the team Wednesday? Manuel said yesterday he plans to play Asche and Ruf regularly the rest of the season. Manuel also added Brown will be in the lineup everyday, too. That seems to create a decision for the Phillies. They decided to keep Michael Young rather than give him away in a trade. I don’t see them benching him — that wouldn’t make sense considering they can still trade him this month — which means he will be playing quite a bit at first base. So that leaves Ruf in left field. That could force Brown back to right, which means Delmon Young‘s day could be numbered.
I would say they could keep Young and release Laynce Nix, but that would not solve the problem of Ruf’s playing time because Nix rarely plays anyway.
The Phillies signed Delmon Young to a low-risk deal before the season because they thought he could provide power in right field for a team they hoped would make the postseason. But the Phillies are headed nowhere now, and his production doesn’t justify giving Ruf less of a look. Young is hitting just .263 with eight home runs, 31 RBIs and a .708 OPS in 285 plate appearances. If Young had enough plate appearances to qualify, he would rank 18th out of 22 rightfielders in baseball in OPS.
He has not been the consistent right-handed run producer the Phillies had hoped and he is a “below-average defender” in right field, according to the Phillies, but they said yesterday they are sticking with him for a couple reasons:
1. He is a slow starter. He had his best season with the Twins in 2010, when he hit .298 with 46 doubles, one triple, 21 home runs, 112 RBIs and an .826 OPS. Through his first 125 plate appearances that year, Young hit .250 with four homers, 16 RBIs and a .742 OPS. Last season with the Tigers, Young hit .267 with 27 doubles, one triple, 18 homers, 74 RBIs and a .707 OPS. Through 126 plate appearances, he hit just .226 with a .599 OPS.
Here is a look at his OPS by months over his career:
- March/April: .645
- May: .673
- June: .744
- July : .862
- August: .741
- September/October: .760
2. “We don’t have a suitable replacement for him,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. John Mayberry Jr. is hitting .256 with 12 doubles, one triple, five home runs, 18 RBIs and a .752 OPS in 168 plate appearances. He regularly replaces Young in right field late in games. Certainly an argument can be made the Phillies should go with Mayberry in right because he is producing better offensively and is an upgrade defensively, but the Phillies believe Young’s upside — a American League Championship Series MVP Award in 2012, etc. — has earned him a longer look. Mayberry had a chance to earn an everyday job last season, but failed. You wonder if that plays into their thinking. In other words, the Phillies know what Mayberry offers and he has not shown the ability to produce consistently over an extended period of time. With everything as it is, the Phillies seem willing to roll the dice that Young can recapture some of his 2010 magic.
What about Darin Ruf? He is hitting .270 with 18 doubles, seven homers, 36 RBIs and a .778 OPS in 285 plate appearances in Triple-A. I think if Ruf were producing more in Triple A — although he is showing signs of heating up with a 1.055 OPS in his last 12 games — the Phillies would be more eager to bring him up, but he hasn’t so they’ll continue to give Young chances.
“He’s a much better hitter than he’s shown so far,” Amaro said of Young, “but at some point he’s going to have to start providing some offense and proving he can do some things for us or we’re going to have to see if there are other ways to improve the club. But right now we’re going to remain patient with him. And like I said, right now we don’t have a real suitable replacement.”
MLB.com’s Stephen Pianovich visited Jimmy Rollins‘ charity event last night. Rollins offered some of his thoughts on the team’s chances going forward.
But he took Chase Utley’s spot on the 25-man roster when the Phillies placed Utley on the disabled list yesterday because of a strained right oblique. (They placed Roy Halladay on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Martinez on the 40-man roster.) Utley is eligible to be activated June 5, so Martinez is unlikely to be around long. But why Martinez and not somebody like Darin Ruf, who could provide a little help offensively? Or somebody like Triple-A infielders Pete Orr or Cesar Hernandez? I got a ton of questions about this move, so here is the explanation from the Phillies.
“We could always use somebody to run,” Charlie Manuel said. “If we take Delmon (Young) out of the game, we might want to keep (John ) Mayberry back to hit. Things like that. Michael is a switch hitter. He can play a lot of positions. Hopefully we won’t have to run Cliff (Lee) no more.”
Ruf is hitting .262 with 13 doubles, five home runs and 23 RBIs with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he had just three hits in his last 29 at-bats entering today. But Ruf also only plays left field and first base, which means there would be little opportunity for him to play. He is unlikely to take away starts from leftfielder Domonic Brown or first baseman Ryan Howard. The Phillies play two interleague games Monday and Tuesday in Boston, but bringing him up for essentially two games didn’t make sense to them.
“I think the better fit was someone who could play all over the field,” assistant general manager Scott Proefrock said. “We’ve got two (interleague) games. It would be hard to find (Ruf) a place to play (otherwise) and it probably wouldn’t be the right fit. At this particular point in time Michael would step into what Freddy (Galvis’) role is and play all over the field. He can play some center field if he had to. He’s been here before. That seemed to make some more sense than something like that. It was more Michael’s versatility and just the really short window of interleague play.”
Proefrock said Martinez’s versatility probably helped him over Orr. Hernadnez, who is hitting .312, is primarily a second baseman.
“Freddy is going to play ahead of him, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to bring him up,” Proefrock said of Hernandez. “He’s not as versatile as Michael. He’s pretty much limited at second base right now at least from playing on any kind of regular basis.”
He had just smashed a baseball onto the thatched roof of the mini-tiki bar in left field for a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Phillies a 7-6 victory over the Braves. The ball bounced off the roof, out of the ballpark and onto the MLB Network satellite truck below. It was a nice moment for Ruf, who had struggled early this spring as he competed for a job in the Phillies outfield. But before Ruf had a chance to enjoy the moment, the Phillies called him into manager Charlie Manuel’s office and optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
“I’ll be pulling for him,” Manuel said. “I think there’s a good chance we’ll see him here (this season). It depends on how our offense goes. He’s capable of being a really good hitter.”
There have many storylines in camp, but as Spring Training in Florida comes to a close everybody seems to be talking about five things.
Let’s take a look at those five topics here:
Roy Halladay. There is reason to be concerned about Halladay. He looked fine in his first two Grapefruit League starts, throwing his fastball in the 89-91 mph range. But his velocity has dropped since then as he has had issues in each of his previous three starts. In his third Grapefruit League start his velocity fell into the 86-88 mph range as he talked about experiencing “dead arm.” He got shelled in 2 2/3 innings in his fourth start March 12, saying he felt lethargic. Then he lasted just one inning in his fifth start Sunday because of a stomach virus. Everybody is asking if Halladay is healthy. It is a fair and legitimate question to ask because Halladay and others in the organization said he was fine last March when he was experiencing lower back problems. But while the health question is justifiable, one also might ask this: Is Halladay simply running out of bullets? He turns 36 on May 14. He has pitched 2,351 1/3 innings from 2002-12, which ranks third in baseball. He has thrown 34,423 pitches in the regular season and postseason in that span, not including Spring Training games, bullpen sessions and warm ups. Maybe time is catching up to him, although he said in February he does not think he is there yet. It is a grim reality if it is true. Meanwhile, the Phillies are putting a positive spin on things, saying Halladay’s problems simply stem from a few mechanical issues and some problems with his cutter. They say all is well. They certainly hope they are right because it would be a blow to their chances if it is not. Halladay threw a bullpen session Wednesday and Rich Dubee said through a team spokesman, “Roy threw very well. He almost lost 10 pounds, so he’s just got to gain some weight back and get his strength.” Halladay is scheduled to make two more starts this spring before the regular season, including Saturday in a Minor League game at Carpenter Complex. It is strange to be writing this, but while in the past nobody would think twice about a couple poor Spring Training starts from Halladay, some positive results here would put some minds at ease. And not just the minds of fans. Phillies officials are putting up a brave face, but they would like to see some, too.
He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts against the Dominican Republic in a 15-2 loss at Bright House Field. He also could not get to a ball Miguel Tejada hit to left-center field for a ground-rule double in the third. The ball appeared catchable.
Ruf is hitting .111 (3-for-27) with one double, three RBIs, two walks and nine strikeouts in nine games, including today’s game which does not figure into the official Spring Training statistics.
“It looks like he didn’t get no hits,” said Charlie Manuel, when asked what Ruf looked like at the plate. “Right now things aren’t going good for Ruf. He’ll be all right. Ruf isn’t the only guy to ever come to Spring Training and get off to a slow start. It happens every spring. He’ll be fine. He is going to get some more hits. He’s not going to go all of his life with collars.”