For Two Phillies: A Spring of Discontent

23 Mar

Two men are not having the Spring Trainings they were hoping for.  One, a young slugger trying to make it to the bigs is having a “ruf” go of it and the other, an experienced veteran, one of the best pitchers in the game, now has everyone wondering “What’s up, Doc?”

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Friday, Darin Ruf had a day to remember–and then forget.  Less than half an hour after hitting a mammoth walk-off home run against the Braves and being mobbed at home plate by his teammates, Ruf was told by Phils GM Ruben Amaro that he had been optioned to the minors.

Although disappointed, the 26-year-old Ruf tried to take it in stride

“It kind of caught me off guard a little, but, you know, it’s a part of the game. I need to get out there and play left field on a daily basis.” Ruf said.

And indeed his adventures in left field, to put it kindly, did not help his chances to make the big club.  In fairness to Ruf, he was a first baseman by trade until less than a year ago but there was a “big” obstacle standing smack in his path to playing for the Phillies at first base, namely, “the Big Piece” himself, Ryan Howard.

So after Ruf took the Phils by storm hitting .317 with 38 home runs in Double-A Reading the Phillies decided to move him to left field in hopes of getting him and his big bat up to the bigs a bit sooner.  But learning a new position while trying to make it in the majors is a daunting task for anyone.

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Phils pitcher Roy Halladay also seems to be struggling to learn some new tricks.  After suffering through an injury-plagued season last year, Halladay changed his legendary off-season regimen and declared himself healthy and strong entering Spring Training.  He has also been trying to make adjustments to his delivery this spring to try to take stress off his lower back.

But things have not gone smoothly for the man normally so surgical on the mound that he is simply known as “the Doc.”  After leaving his last start after just one inning, due to a stomach flu that resulted in Halladay losing 10 pounds, the plan was for Roy to regain his strength with some outings against minor league hitters.  So Roy’s path, like Ruf’s, takes him to Lehigh Valley but the hope is that his stay there will be brief.

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Darin Ruf will head for the Iron Pigs just as it seemed he was hitting his stride.  After a 3-21 start at the plate he had gotten his stroke back.  He batted .306 with five doubles and two home runs in his last 11 games. He admitted that the pressure to perform early got to him.

“I think people expected me to hit a home run every at-bat, get a hit every at-bat, and not make a mistake at a new position.”

Those lofty expectations would be hard for anyone to meet.

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As for Roy, his first outing in Lehigh Valley was far from anyone’s expectations.  Doc needed 82 pitches to get 11 outs while retiring only 7 of the 18 batters he faced.   He gave up seven hits, two walks, and hit a batter.   And while Ruf’s struggles perhaps are to be expected the Doc’s are more baffling and so more concerning.  After this latest outing we are left with more questions than answers.  The only thing we can fall back on is that the hard-working Halladay will do whatever it takes to get back.

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And what does the future hold for Darin Ruf?  No, his Spring Training won’t have the fairy tale ending he was hoping for.  He’ll pack his bags and “walk off” to join Roy Halladay with the Iron Pigs.  But not before giving everyone a long and loud ninth inning reminder of why his story is far from over.

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One Response to “For Two Phillies: A Spring of Discontent”

  1. Ray March 24, 2013 at 10:43 pm #

    Ruff will be ok. Learning a new position is never easy, it will take him some time to adjust. No need to rush him up before he is truly ready.

    Doc, it’s worrisome. Hopefully he gets back into form. Only time will tell.

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