I guess there isn’t much you can compare hitting a walk-off home run and subsequently getting sent down to the minors to.
However, that’s exactly what happened to Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Darin Ruf on Friday afternoon. Moments after he won the game with a walk-off homer, he was sent down to AAA. Now, barring some sort of unforeseen injury to someone else on the roster, he will not be with the team come Opening Day.
The Phillies and General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. made the right move here. Ruf didn’t exactly perform poorly at the plate, as he hit .246/.328/.456. That said, those numbers weren’t exactly eye-popping either.
Ruf knew he would probably need an eye-popping type of spring to get regular time with the team. According to management, he didn’t deliver it.
He misplayed a few balls in left field, so it’s no surprise that the Phillies are sending him down to the minors to work on his play in the outfield. Amaro has said that Ruf will play five teams a week in left field but will also see time at first base, a position he is more comfortable with.
What does this mean for the Phillies? It means that John Mayberry, Jr. and Laynce Nix will likely be platooning in the outfield. The Phillies still are yet to decide where Domonic Brown will play in the outfield, but either corner outfield spot suits him.
Left field would appear to be more likely for Brown, so placing Nix and Mayberry in right still leaves an outfield spot open should the Phillies carry what has become the National League norm of five outfielders on the roster. That spot could go to Ender Inciarte, a Rule 5 draft pick. The Phillies seem to like what Inciarte has done this spring.
Another option would be to carry an extra infielder. Yuniesky Betancourt has played well this spring, as has Freddy Galvis, and it’s possible that both could make the squad.
That said, the Phillies would be doing themselves a disservice if they get into a late-game situation and have Nix or Mayberry as their only defensive replacement.
It would seem more likely that Inciarte will come north with the Phillies and will get an opportunity to stick with the team despite not having a single game of experience beyond Single A.
It’s obviously disappointing for Ruf that he was not able to make the team right out of spring training, but it’s better for him to play down in AAA and hone his skills in the outfield. They were not Major League ready to say the least. In the end, Ruf’s glove cost him a spot with the team, but this won’t be the last we hear from him in 2013.