A year ago, Darin Ruf looked like the successor to Ryan Howard down the line as the first baseman for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Now, the Phillies are not so sure.
Ruf broke Howard’s Reading Phillies home run record (38 to Howard’s 37), and despite a better-than-decent first couple of years in the big leagues, his future remains murky with the big club, because there is really no place for him without the team thinking outside the box. After a Friday night 1-0 loss to the host Atlanta Braves that had been like so many Phillies losses this summer, thinking outside the box on offense needs to be done.
When GM Ruben Amaro and manager Ryne Sandberg sit down at the table to discuss next year’s team, getting Ruf at-bats at a variety of spots should be one of their top priorities. Ruf has proven to be a productive right-handed bats on a team heavily laden with left-handed hitters. Despite playing only 71 games, Ruf has 14 home runs and 30 RBIs. Project that to 142 games, and that’s 28 home runs and 60 RBIs, something a team that lost more than their share of 2-1 and 1-0 games needs going forward.
Howard is slated to return next year, and Ruf’s transition to the outfield, at least defensively, has been uneven at best. Amaro has said earlier this week that although the team “likes” Ruf, his spot on the roster has not been guaranteed, because the club could go elsewhere to upgrade its offensive productivity. Still, when it comes to Ruf, they need more, not less, players like him.
If the Phillies can think outside the box enough to platoon Ruf with Howard at first for 60 or so games and get him in the outfield for 80 or so additional games next year, they can get those numbers.