Even though Darin Ruf‘s spring training batting average is .130 and he’s hit zero home runs, plate presence isn’t his problem. Unless something changes within the next few weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies are likely to send “Babe Ruf” to Triple-A where he can soften his left fielder’s glove with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.
I had the opportunity to see Ruf play multiple games for the Double-A Reading Phillies (now the Reading Fightin Phils, which is another story unto itself) last season. Beyond the obvious quick hands that this young man possessed, it was easy to see that he embodied the spirit that all successful baseball players need.
This 2009 twentieth round draft pick came out of nowhere to break the team’s all-time Double-A home run record last season when he sent 38 baseballs into the 2012 summer sky. Passing Ryan Howard does tend to increase your stock. The Phillies had Ruf move from first base to left field last August in order to hopefully further his career in red pinstripes.
Watching him play that corner outfield spot last summer was encouraging. Any seasoned baseball supporter knew that it would take time for him to learn his new position, let alone be instantly ready to wear a left fielder’s glove on a full-time basis in the major leagues this year.
This 26-year-old hasn’t spent one minute at the Phillies’ Triple-A ballpark in Allentown before spring training began. Based upon his fielding efforts during the last two weeks, he seems likely to get that opportunity starting next month.
Domonic Brown’s positive performance to-date certainly underscores the message that prospects needn’t be rushed. John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix can surely combine to hold the left field job while Ruf hones his skills. Delmon Young also offers the Phillies another major league outfield option once he’s ready to play.
It would hardly be a demotion if Ruf is sent to Lehigh Valley. As long as he does well there, that assignment could prove to simply be another step in this inspiring slugger’s developing career.