As the Philadelphia Phillies limp into the All-Star Break with a record of 42-53, sitting at 11 games under .500 and with a two-game losing streak in tow, some wonder if the imminent return of fan favorite players Carlos Ruiz and Cliff Lee will somehow help the team turn things around.
Ruiz is coming back from a nasty concussion that has had him inactive since the end of June. He is headed to Clearwater to take part in some rehab, is starting to get himself back into playing shape and should make his return to the Phillies roster shortly after the All-Star break. Lee is well on his way to making a return from an elbow strain that has sidelined him for two months and is on track to make his first start against the San Francisco Giants on July 21.
And while the Phillies have certainly missed both of these key members of their roster, the return of one or both isn’t going to make much of a difference to the future of this team.
Of the two, the absence of Ruiz has definitely been felt the most. With both he and backup catcher Wil Nieves out at the same time it has fallen to Cameron Rupp and Koyie Hill to handle things behind the plate. And while they have played hard and tried, things haven’t gone well without Ruiz in his usual place wearing the catcher’s mask.
Lee, on the other hand, is essentially playing for a contract next year as it has been an open secret that the Phillies had every intention of trading him at the deadline before he got hurt. Now he may have two starts before the end of July and unless a team is desperate for a pitcher of Lee’s caliber, like the New York Yankees currently find themselves, odds are he will remain a Phillie for now.
Could their return spark a massive comeback on the Phillies’ part and somehow help them crawl back into the playoff race in the NL East? Weirder things have happened. Having Ruiz back at home plate will be a huge plus and any team with Cliff Lee on the mound is better than a team without him.
The honest truth though is that the Phillies on the whole just aren’t that good this year and even the return of players as talented as Ruiz and Lee isn’t going to help. It will make watching the games a bit more bearable, but in all likelihood it’s going to be a case of too little, too late.