The Phillies downed the National League east division rival Atlanta Braves on Friday afternoon on the strength of a pair of young members of the organization. The Spring Training tilt featured a strong start by LHP Adam Morgan, who struck out five and allowed one run in 4 2/3 innings. But it was Darin Ruf who put the Braves out of their misery, when he blasted a towering home run to deep, deep, deep left field.
It was arguably the high point in a spring that has been rife with a lot of lows for Ruf, who has languished both in the lineup and on the field this month. As impressive as that game-winning homer was, that didn't prevent the Phillies from sending Ruf to the minors following the game, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury.
His demotion is not at all surprising, given how poorly he has performed during the spring. Following a solid-but-brief debut in September last season, the Phillies were hopeful that Ruf could be a mainstay in the lineup and in left field, but after a month of games, it was evident that the 26-year-old needs more seasoning at his new position in the minors. How long he stays down here is entirely up to him.
But, oh my, that home run! It was a bomb off the bat, and with the wind blowing out, it had no trouble clearing the bleachers in deep left. And that, right there, is why Darin Ruf will continue to exist on the periphery, as far as the Phillies are concerned. Power is expensive, and the thought of having a player in your lineup with that kind of power is too enticing to simply dismiss.
It's because of that reasoning that the Phillies will keep an eye on Darin Ruf, despite doubts that he can field his position in left field or hit Major League pitching with any sort of consistency. But teams love the kind of potential that guys like Darin Ruf bring to the table. He might never be an adequate fielder, but the promise of that power goes a long way to making you forget about a guy's shortcomings in the field.
When Spring Training started, I was firmly entrenched in Darin Ruf's corner. There are a lot of naysayers out there, and for good reason, but I was hopeful that he could put on a decent enough showing during the spring to convince the team that he was ready for The Show. Unfortunately for him, that was not the case, and the Phillies will instead turn to more capable players to occupy left field until the time comes that Ruf is ready to do that himself.
For now, Ruf will ply his trade at Lehigh Valley, where the Phillies hope that he can get things figured out with the bat and with the glove. We shall see.