Even with a straight road to making the Philadelphia Phillies squad on Opening Day thanks to Delmon Young‘s ailing ankle, Darin Ruf‘s progress had just about come to a standstill after a little over a week of Spring Training.
It was bad enough that the 26-year old prospect was having some serious issues with his glove in the outfield, but he wasn’t doing very much with his power bat either. The former first baseman had just three hits over his first 23 at-bats this spring, while fellow outfield hopeful Domonic Brown (17 hits in 47 AB, three HRs) easily separated himself from the field.
At one point, Ruf was considered to have the inside track to start the year as the team’s left fielder. After eight games, it was unclear whether he’d be worthy of being on the 25-man roster at all.
Things are turning around for him, though — at least at the plate. After a single as the DH in Thursday’s Grapefruit League match against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Ruf now has hits in four of his last five outings, going 5-for-15 in that span.
Not even a hit-by-pitch on March 10 slowed him over the last week, and the former first base prospect even added his first spring homer on Wednesday.
Sure, the hits are nice, but the best thing out of this little run is that Ruf no longer seem overmatched, as he has struck out only twice over those last 15 trips to the plate, as opposed to six times he whiffed in the 23 times prior — all of which is to say that he might still have some fight in him yet.
It’s unlikely that what he does in camp going forward won’t be nearly be enough to match the amount of stock that Brown has accumulated thus far, but will it be enough to keep his name in the mix for the 25-man roster, over no-upside bench types like Laynce Nix?
That’s still up in the air for now, but a few more homer over the next half month or so could go a long way into putting Ruf there on Opening Day — at least until Young is ready to return and Brown shifts back to left field, anyway.