Darin Ruf’s escapades in left field during spring training convinced the Philadelphia Phillies that their potential power progeny wasn’t ready for the major leagues yet. His demotion to the minor leagues today also increases the chances that “Babe Ruf” could be traded.
Don’t smash your digital screen Phillies’ fans. No one is saying that he’s destined to be dealt to the New York Yankees for cash. But, that fabled 1920 Boston Red Sox decision will rear it’s ugly head again if certain circumstances develop over time.
What if Ruf continues to struggle defensively with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs in Triple-A this season?
Assume that he hits approximately five home runs per month heading into the summer, as the Phillies fall out of the playoff race. General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. would then likely replay his 2012 trade deadline day by making more moves if he believes that his team isn’t postseason bound. In one scenario, he bets on youth across the board and deals a few veterans for younger parts. In another, Ruf is included in one of his major deals.
If the Phillies plan to remain committed to Ryan Howard for the bulk of his current contract, the “Big Piece” will potentially occupy first base through 2016. That means Ruf won’t wear a first baseman’s glove in a Phillies’ uniform for any great length of time.
Yes, Ruf will be playing some games at first base in Triple-A this season. But, those outings will be designed to allow him to serve as Howard’s understudy in case of injury.
This outfield convert could eventually become the Phillies full-time left fielder. But, he must prove that he’s at least capable of resembling Pat Burrell in the field as well as at the plate.
In order for the Phillies to experience their own “Bambino Curse”, Ruf would need to be traded and then hit massive quantities of home runs until the end of his major league playing days.
While the odds of Ruf being traded may have risen slightly today, it seems reasonable to conclude that the Phillies will allocate a measured amount of time for this 26-year-old man to make further progress.