Results tagged ‘ Darin Ruf ’

Brown Back, Nix Nixed

nixThe Phillies planned to have Domonic Brown play two rehab games this week before activating him tomorrow night against the Cubs.

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.

And Then Depression Set In …

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.”

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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.

Phillies Remaining Patient with Young

Delmon YoungDelmon Young enters tonight’s game against the Mets hitting .222 with six doubles, six home runs, 17 RBIs and a .677 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 148 plate appearances.

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.”

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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.

Explaining Mini-Mart

Phillies Cardinals BaseballMichael Martinez has hit .188 in 354 plate appearances over two seasons with the Phillies. He hit .239 in 121 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

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.”

Ruf Optioned to Work on Defense

Darin RufDarin Ruf smiled brightly as he touched home plate this afternoon at Bright House Field.

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.”

(more…)

Five Topics with Eight Days Remaning in Florida

Domonic BrownThe Phillies board a flight for Philadelphia a week from tomorrow, which means the 2013 season is just 12 days away.

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.

Read the rest of the story, including thoughts on Domonic Brown, the three remaining bullpen jobs, the fifth outfielder and the two utility infield jobs, here.

Another Ruf Day

Darin RufPhillies outfielder Darin Ruf had another tough day today.

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.”

The Outfield Battle

John Mayberry Jr., Domonic BrownThe Phillies play their seventh Grapefruit League game today against the Yankees in Tampa.

Roy Halladay pitches for the Phillies. They were encouraged with what they saw from him in Sunday’s start against Detroit, but it was just one start in February. You can’t draw any conclusions from anything you’ve seen so far in camp. Of course, the players that are playing well say it’s great to get results and those results mean something to them. The players that aren’t getting results? Well, they’re just getting their work in.

I took a look yesterday at the outfielders competing for jobs and playing time. Domonic Brown clearly has taken a step forward, but there is time for the others to state their case. Interestingly, Charlie Manuel pulled John Mayberry Jr. to the side during batting practice before their 10-5 victory over Atlanta and had an animated conversation with him about just that. Delmon Young also talked about his trip to the doctor in Tuesday in LA. He’s optimistic he will get good news, which will allow him to step up his rehab.

Read about the details here.

Ruf Had Sore Arm, But Says He’s Fine

Darin Ruf hasn’t played in the field since Monday because of a sore right arm, but he said today he is fine and should be back in the field tomorrow.

Ruf is making the move from first base to left field, which means a lot more throwing. He said he felt some soreness in his biceps following throwing drills.

“It’s normal,” he said. “I was feeling great today and I’m back in there tomorrow.”

Ruf, who is competing for a job in the outfield, is 0-for-9 this spring. He grounded out sharply to third baseman Mark Sobolewski in the eighth inning of today’s s 12-5 loss to the Twins at Hammond Stadium.

“I felt like I put a good swing on it. Mark just made a good play,” Ruf said. “I thought we were better friends than that, but whatever. As long as I’m having good at-bats … I’m seeing the ball well.”

Schmidt on Howard, Ruf and Brown

Mike Schmidt, Charlie ManuelMike Schmidt is in camp through March 20 as a special instructor. He spoke for about 25 minutes this morning at Bright House Field, touching on a variety of topics. Here are a few higlights:

On new third baseman Michael Young. “Golly, I was talking to (Phillies president) David Montgomery about him 10 minutes ago. What a lot of people don’t realize and I haven’t heard it, Michael Young could retire tomorrow and he would be a strong candidate for the Hall of Fame. He’s probably two Michael Young years away from being a first ballot Hall of Famer. I don’t know if anybody has thought about that. I don’t know what his career hitting numbers are, but he’s a little like Derek Jeter, is he not? He’s that kind of player and he’s had that kind of career. Obviously it’s not playing in New York, but if he played in New York, imagine what people would be saying about Michael Young’s career? Somebody would have mentioned the Hall of Fame a long time ago.”

On connecting with Ryan Howard early in camp. “I’ve got to tell you right out of the chute, Ryan Howard to me is very interested in my input in his hitting. To me that makes me really feel good. We’ve chatted over the years about hitting. I’ve always been a Ryan Howard fan, but he’s picking my brain a little bit more. He looks good. He’s thin. He’s doing some of the things we talk about. It’s not going in one ear and out the other. He’s taking it all in. I’m only in my second day here and I’m really excited. I feel like I’ve made more strides in my temporary coaching role than I ever had to this point. Of course we’ll see in a couple weeks how it all works out as they get game at-bats.”

On how he can help Howard the most. “He’s stuck in a game situation against the best pitcher, one of the best left-handers in the league, probably 60-70 times more than other any hitter in the league. He probably creates 20 jobs in the Major Leagues. There’s 20 left-handers that wouldn’t be in the Major Leagues if Ryan Howard weren’t in the major leagues, right? I guess what we’re kind of working on is a mindset that may allow him to become a little stronger in those at-bats. A little more contact. He’s still going to strikeout. I’m in the top 10 all time in strikeouts so I’m pretty comfortable with striking out. But I think he needs to and we were talking about ways where we might get him to be a little less strikeout prone in those kind of (Jonny) Venters at-bats, against Atlanta late in the game, when you get that nasty left-hander to get him out. We need contact in this at-bat. I don’t care if it’s a grounder to second or a chopper up the middle. Even if it’s on the first pitch or second pitch. Less foul balls and two-strike vulnerability in those at-bats. He has bought into the discussion 100 percent.”

On Darin Ruf. “At this point I’m a big fan. I chatted with him really quickly, told him, ‘Congratulations on your great start with the Phillies in the Major Leagues.’ I think he opened a lot of eyes when he came up. I don’t want to speak out of turn, but I would guess they want him to play … I just like him. He’s a great young kid. He has no fear as a hitter against tough right-handers. You see that sometimes. He can give you a hell of an at-bat against a nasty right-handed pitcher. He’s very mature for 26. I wouldn’t discount him being your Opening Day starter (in left field). Let’s wait and see. He has everything you need to win that job.”

On Domonic Brown. “From a hitting standpoint, even now he might be ahead of where I was at that time, a little better idea of hitting. I couldn’t hit a ball to the opposite field to save my butt back then. I couldn’t hit a curve ball, I couldn’t hit a slider. But I sure could hit a long home run down the left-field line and play third base. I was afforded the time to make adjustments and sort of become an everyday, consistent Major League hitter. He doesn’t have that luxury. He has Darin Ruf hounding him … he’s got like six guys who want his position. For him to get that guarantee of, ‘You’re our left fielder, you’re getting 500 at-bats’ is very, very hard. … It’s about time that Domonic does the things that everyone thinks he can do. And not do them over a day, but does them over a month, then two months. And that’s when he gets his name inserted in the lineup every day.”

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